Vacations are the stuff that dreams are made of, but scammers are out in full force waiting to turn those dreams into your worst nightmare. Vacationers tend to be relaxed, so scammers take full advantage of this to con unsuspecting victims out of their money. Learn some of the more common vacation scams and how to avoid them.
Online rental scams
How it plays out: In this scam, fraudsters create fake listings for accommodations, offering attractive deals and eye-catching images. They’ll insist on upfront payment or request wire transfers for guaranteeing the availability. Unfortunately, the rental either does not exist, or it’s quite different than the images would have the vacationer believe.
Stay safe: To avoid falling victim to online rental scams, be very cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. When booking a vacation rental online, do extensive research. Look up ratings and reviews, and verify the legitimacy of the rental property through reputable websites or direct communication with the owner. Use secure payment methods only and never wire money to strangers.
Free vacation scams
How it plays out: A target receives a letter, email or text message informing them that they’ve won a sweepstakes for a free luxury vacation. They’ll be asked to pay a small fee or tax to process the prize. Alternatively, they may be asked to share their credit card information before they can claim the prize. Sadly, after paying the fee, they’ll never hear from the sweepstakes company again.
Stay safe: Again, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never share personal information with an unverified contact or make a payment to an unknown recipient via gift card or wire transfer. Also, if you’re asked to pay a “processing fee” or “tax” to claim a prize, you’re being scammed.
Travel package scams
How it plays out: In this scam, a target will fall for an enticing travel package that promises luxurious vacations at unbelievably low prices. Fraudulent travel agencies or websites may request upfront payment for the entire package, only to disappear once the money is received.
Stay safe: Protect yourself by thoroughly researching any travel agency or website you use to book your vacation. Check for reviews, certifications and contact information. Be skeptical of deals that fall way below average market prices. It’s best to use trusted and well-established travel agencies and to opt for secure payment methods that provide protection against fraud.
Timeshare resale scams
How it plays out: Timeshare resale scams target vacationers looking to sell or rent out their timeshare properties. Scammers contact timeshare owners, offering assistance in selling or renting their units. They’ll request upfront fees for advertising or administrative purposes, but they’ll provide no actual service.
Stay safe: To avoid falling victim to timeshare scams, only work with reputable resale companies or seek advice from your timeshare resort when looking to sell or rent out your timeshare. Be cautious when dealing with unsolicited offers and always read contracts thoroughly before signing. Research the market value of your timeshare and be wary of excessive fees or unrealistic promises.
Fake travel websites and emails
How it plays out: Scammers create bogus travel websites or send deceptive emails mimicking legitimate companies. These fraudulent platforms trick users into disclosing personal data, such as credit card details and account information, or con them into making payments for vacations that do not exist.
Stay safe: Only browse and interact with secure sites. Check each URL for legitimacy; if something seems off, it likely is. Never click on random links or download attachments from unfamiliar sources. If you’d like to book a vacation through a specific travel agency, contact them directly through verified contact information. Finally, use secure payment methods with purchase protection, such as a credit card, when booking a vacation online.