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Summer is here, and for many, that means taking some time off to travel. The problem is, there are a lot of scam artists out there, looking to take advantage of people planning their vacations and trying to rip them off.
From securing your plane ticket to choosing travel insurance, you’ll need to do your homework before heading off on your next trip. But you also want to make sure you're protecting yourself from summer vacation travel scams. Here, we walk you through all the key steps you can take to avoid costly mistakes and scams and ensure you get the most out of your travel purchase.
Tip #1: Book with known travel partners
The most important thing to remember when you’re buying a vacation travel package is to read the fine print. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and what your responsibilities are so that there’s no confusion or misunderstanding when you book your trip. If you’re looking to save money on flights, hotels, and car rentals, then use well-known travel aggregators like Expedia, Booking.com, and Travelzoo. These websites allow you to compare prices across a wide range of companies and websites.
Some scammers set up travel websites that look official, but are merely phishing schemes meant to steal your data. Using a product like Malwarebytes can help detect websites that aren’t what they claim to be. Malwarebytes is software that's designed to detect and block malicious activities and help protect you from a variety of sophisticated cyberthreats, including online scams and phishing sites.
Tip #2: Check for negative reviews online
Always do your research and check the company you're purchasing from. If you're concerned about the legitimacy of a company, do an internet search through the Better Business Bureau or by typing the company's name followed by the word “review” or even “scam.” This 30-second step can help save you from potentially getting caught in a phishing scam.
Tip #3: Do your research
When you make travel purchases online, it’s important to read the refund policy carefully. If you purchase a product or service online and you have to cancel or delay your trip, it’s important to understand what you’re entitled to receive in terms of a refund.
Tip #4: “Free” vacations aren’t usually free
The biggest problem with travel and vacation scams is that people often don't realize they've been scammed until they’ve spent the money on the trip. If the price seems too cheap to be true, it probably is. Sure, you can "win" free legitimate vacation packages, but there are often strings attached. Even if you score the free vacation, it's important to remember that you will likely still have to pay for your flights, food, and any other expenses that you might incur while you’re away.
Tip #5: Get it all in writing
Getting your policies in writing and making sure they are clearly outlined before you buy is crucial. It's key to read the fine print of your travel plans so you're aware of any penalties or substitution policies.
The fine print is also where you’ll find extra costs, such as resort fees and transfer fees. If the fine print only specifies a ‘five-star’ hotel and not the actual name and address of your accommodations, that’s a red flag, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Post-COVID, legitimate travel companies have revisited cancelation or revision policies. “Many airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators have been flexible regarding revisions, cancelations, and refunds to help travelers cope with the burden of the pandemic,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel at AAA, tells Yahoo Life.
“As travel begins to surge and the demand for space is high, many travel providers are reverting back to their normal terms and conditions,” points out Twidale. “It is advisable to review all terms and conditions when making travel reservations. Travelers should consider working with a knowledgeable AAA travel agent, to help take the guesswork out of vacation planning and enable them to make informed decisions."
As an additional step, make your travel purchases with a credit card. The built-in fraud protection will help you if something goes wrong.
Tip #6: Report travel scams when you come across them
If you come across a travel scam online, a complaint can be filed online with the Federal Trade Commission or with your state attorney general’s office. While the FTC will investigate your complaint, they cannot resolve issues regarding individual complaints. You may be able to resolve your dispute with support from your credit card company if you paid by credit card.
The proper authorities can catch more scammers if the public comes forward and tells them about travel scams. If you don't report the scam, the scammer will just keep taking advantage of others.