Travel Scams: Just Warming Up
Summer is the perfect time to take a vacation – but it’s also the perfect time for scammers to target unsuspecting travelers.
According to consumer advocates, scammers who prey on travelers are just warming up. During the first four months of 2022, Americans have already reported losses of over $230,000 due to travel scams according to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.
Consumers reported nearly $350,000 in losses from May through July last year, accounting for more than a third (33.5%) of all money lost due to travel-related scams in 2021.
BBB travel and vacation scam experts say the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has made people more vulnerable to travel scams. Scammers are taking advantage of people’s desire to get away by offering fake deals on travel. This includes rental accommodations, free cruises and low cost mini-vacations.
With prices of Summer travel going up rapidly due to inflation and rising fuel costs, many people seeking to travel during this busy season will be instinctively looking for a ‘deal.’ And that’s where the scammers step in.” So how can you protect yourself from becoming a victim of a travel scam? Let’s look at some of the most common travel scams to watch out for this Summer.
1. The Free Trip Scam
You may have seen ads or posts online promising a free trip if you sign up for a enter-to-win contest. These offers are usually too good to be true, and if you do take the bait, you’ll likely end up paying far more than the cost of a regular vacation.
2. The Timeshare Mini-Vac
Timeshares mini vacations are another popular travel scheme, especially in resort areas. You may be approached by someone offering a free or deeply discounted stay in a timeshare property if you’re willing to sit through a sales presentation. These presentations can be very high pressure, and you may end up paying far more than you bargained for.
3. The Travel Club Scam
Similar to timeshare, travel clubs use high-pressure sales tactics to get people to sign up for memberships that can be difficult to cancel. You may be promised extra discounts on travel and accommodations if you take the “Today Only” deal. If you research the internet, the same or like travel offerings are openly available elsewhere from legitimate merchants and with no long term commitment.
4. Fake Rental Scam
Scammers will list a property for rent on popular vacation rental websites like Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway. When you try to book the rental, you’ll be asked to wire money or send a prepaid debit card. Once the payment is sent, the scammer disappears and you’re left without a place to stay.
5. The Airline Ticket Scam
You may find a too-good-to-be-true airfare deal online, but when you go to purchase the ticket, your credit card is declined. That’s because the site is a fake, created by scammers to steal your credit card information. Be sure to book directly with the airline or a reputable travel agent to avoid this scam.
Lisa Ann Schreier a/k/a The Timeshare Crusader frequently writes about ways consumers can prevent themselves from becoming a victim. The use of urgent and enticing language in fraudulent marketing is a real warning sign.
“What most of these scams have in common is that they contain the four words I tell people to avoid at all costs, Those words are free, perfect, always, and never. Free and perfect don’t exist, as much as we’d like to believe they do and always and never are exceedingly long periods of time. Also remember that a good deal today will be a good deal tomorrow or next week, scammers take advantage of travelers by using false scarcity.” says Schreier.
Here Are Some Travel Scam Prevention Tips:
– Be skeptical of unsolicited offers, especially if they require payment upfront.
-Research the company with the BBB and read consumer reviews online.
-Pay by credit card so you can dispute the charges if something goes wrong.
-If there is an agreement or contract, get everything in writing.
When planning your next vacation, be sure to use caution and common sense. Don’t let the excitement of planning a trip override your better judgment. Take your time to research travel deals and don’t be afraid to ask questions. For more tips on how to avoid travel scams, visit the BBB Scam Tracker.
If you have been victimized by a travel scam, you can report it to the BBB. Your report will help warn others about current scams and provide valuable information to law enforcement and businesses to help them fight back against scammers. You may want to file a local police report and depending on your loss, you may also want to consult with an attorney to assist you in protecting your rights as a consumer.
Led by attorneys Michael D. Finn and J. Andrew Meyer with over 75 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm that specializes in timeshare related matters. If you feel that you are a victim of a timeshare or travel scam, contact us today for a free consultation.