Traveling This Spring? Don’t Get Burned by These Scams!
It’s been a long winter, and you’ve been looking forward to getting away for months—whether it’s a sunny spring break voyage with friends or a chill family trip. As you happily pack your bags and finalize your plans, be wary of these travel scams, which can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.
Travel deal scams
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns springtime vacationers to be wary of travel deals that seem too good to be true. In 2018, the BBB received more than 5,000 complaints about travel deals that turned out to be misleading or nonexistent. Don’t let this happen to you!
Before booking a flight or hotel reservation through an online service, check out the agency behind the deal. Look up the business on BBB.org and do some basic research on its website. If the images on the “travel agency” website look too picturesque for the price you’re paying, do a quick Google image search using the keywords of your destination. You might find that these images have been lifted right off the website of a legitimate travel agency charging a lot more than what you’re being asked to pay.
As an extra precaution, the BBB recommends paying by credit card, which offers purchase protection and the ability to reclaim your money if things don’t work out as advertised.
While people of every age enjoy a springtime getaway, scammers know that an especially large amount of high school and college students will be traveling during spring break — and they’re quick to take advantage. In this ruse, scammers call victims and pretend to be their vacationing grandchild. They’ll claim to have been arrested or hospitalized while traveling and are in desperate need of cash. Sometimes, the caller will impersonate the local authorities who are supposedly holding the grandchild or the medical personnel at the hospital where the grandchild is allegedly receiving care. In either case, the caller will ask the worried grandparents to send money immediately via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. The scam can also be played out on parents of vacationing students or on their friends back home. Unfortunately, it is often successful.
If you receive a call like the one described above, don’t panic. Look for the many universal signs of a con, including the demand for immediate payment and for payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
If the caller is pretending to be your grandchild, ask them some questions involving personal memories, which only your grandchild will know how to answer. If the caller stammers through a reply, you can be sure you’re speaking to a scammer and simply hang up the phone.
If the caller is impersonating a legal or medical authority, ask to speak to your grandchild. If they claim this isn’t possible, ask for a callback number so you can contact them if necessary. Next, call your vacationing grandchild to verify their whereabouts. If you don’t have a way of reaching them while they’re traveling, call your relatives, who are the most likely to have last heard from your grandchild. You’ll probably learn that your grandchild is doing just fine.
If you’re looking for a spring getaway for less, you might be looking for an Airbnb rental. You may find incredible deals on this vacation site — or you might play directly into the hands of a scammer.
In the classic Airbnb scam, you’ll find a great listing on Airbnb and contact the property owner. The host will send you a link for other properties they have listed, complete with images, reviews and logos. You’ll like what you see and wire a fee to reserve a rental. Unfortunately, though, when you try to confirm your reservation with Airbnb, it will have no record of the listed property or of your transaction. At that point, you’ll realize you were directed to a bogus website featuring a bogus listing, and you’re out the money you sent with no rental to show for it.
Avoid this scam by checking the URL of any site you visit through Airbnb to make sure you’re dealing with the legitimate rental service.
Don’t get scammed as you travel this spring! Proceed with caution as you make your plans and be wary of anyone claiming your vacationing relative or friend is in trouble. Stay safe!
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a travel scam? Tell us about it in the comments.