Don’t let your spring getaway be an opportunity for scammers to get away with your money. Every year during spring break there are disappointments as travelers find their destination is not what expected. Some find the trip itself to be challenging in unanticipated ways. Still others can discover that their name was used to steal money from their own family that stayed behind. Scammers regard spring break as just another opportunity to take advantage of people. Keep scams at bay with the following advice from your Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Is your destination a mirage?
For the many who do their own travel planning without the help of a travel company, skepticism is a valuable tool. As you search online for that perfect beachside or mountainside cabin, remember a favorite con that scammers use are fictitious hotels, resorts and rentals at fabulous low prices.
It’s a simple matter for an unscrupulous person to create a website or an advertisement that looks totally legitimate when, in fact, the advertised entity does not exist. That’s why you should do your own checking with tools like Google Street View to see what the address really looks like. Even if you verify that the location is accurately portrayed, you have to know that the advertiser really does represent the property. Use social media as well to see if your destination could be faked. Typos and grainy photos are signs of a scam. Read reviews and comments thoroughly.
Consider doing a reverse image search on the photos that an ad or a website posts. A favorite trick of scammers is stealing images from the web to use as lures for vacationers online.
Beware of ads that seem to offer incredible discounts. There is always a catch. You probably did not really “win a trip!” Also remember to never pay anything in order to receive a “gift.” Sound too good to be true? It is.
Check out your travel company
Using a travel company can have its advantages but precautions are in order as you select which company to go with. Some tips:
• Get recommendations from friends regarding what company they have had good experiences with.
• Go to bbb.org to check out the company’s BBB Business Review.
• Get every detail of your itinerary in writing.
• Know the company’s cancellation and refund policies.
• Double check on your trip arrangements by contacting the airline, rental car company and hotel or resort yourself to verify dates, rates and details.
• Ask lots of “what if” questions so you are prepared for any last-minute hitch in the arrangements.
• Consider travel insurance, often a wise choice. But also check your medical insurance and homeowner insurance to see what they may cover.
• Share details of your trip with a trusted friend.
Scamming those left behind
“Emergency” phone calls can be made to the families, especially older relatives, of those who are away on a trip. Scammers use social media now to research names of children or grandchildren, then call a relative and impersonate them. The caller tries to make it sound as if they are in a desperate situation and need money right away, but without telling other family members of course. Should you receive such a call, be suspicious. Ask personal questions that would only be known by the person the caller is claiming to be. Whatever you do, do not wire money to them or send them a prepaid card. This scam has been around for many years and continues to rip off victims.
For additional information or questions concerning a scam-free spring break, contact your BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit our website at bbb.org/scamstudies where you can find an in-depth investigative report about rental scams called “Is That Rental Listing Real?” BBB found that fraud is widespread in the online rental home and vacation rental market, with 43% of online shoppers encountering a fake listing and more than 5 million consumers losing money to such scams.