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BBB Alert: Don’t Let Scammers Rain on Your Spring Travel Plans

BBB Alert: Don’t Let Scammers Rain on Your Spring Travel Plans

Rockford, IL – March 31, 2022 – Spring break offers families and college students an opportunity to travel following a long hard winter. However, it also provides a chance for scammers to offer fraudulent vacation rentals, third-party booking sites, and travel agencies designed to appeal to the consumer looking to get away. And that could cost you.
Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau, says, “With spring break for many travelers occurring over the next several weeks, many consumers are making their travel plans and finalizing payments, some of which will fall directly into the hands of con artists.”
According to BBB Scam Tracker from February 1, 2021 – to March 31, 2021, U.S. consumers lost nearly $160,000 to travel scams at an average of almost $3,200 per report. Scammers often take advantage of consumer habits and capitalize on trending internet searches, enticing consumers with great deals on popular destinations or all-inclusive packages. While these scams happen year-round, now is peak time.
Horton notes, “So far this year, monetary losses due to travel scams have jumped 187%
compared to the same period ago.”
According to reports from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), travel-related fraud cost U.S. consumers $74.7 million in losses and accounted for 27% of all fraud reported to the agency.
Additionally, Horton says, “The best way to avoid falling for a travel scam is to begin planning early, so you are not rushing to make last-minute arrangements. Scammers capitalize on consumers who are in a hurry and may not have the time to verify they are booking with a legitimate location or business. Always verify and be sure to check for customer complaints and reviews on BBB.org.”
BBB developed tips to reduce your risk of travel scams. These will come in handy no matter what season you plan to travel. According to BBB, the five most-reported travel scams are:

Vacation rental con

  • These con artists lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. The “owner” creates a false sense of urgency – such as telling potential clients that another vacationer is interested in the rental – to get payment upfront before vacationers do sufficient research or question the legitimacy of the ad.

“Free” vacation scams

  • When a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is without cost or restrictions. Watch out for add-on fees for air transportation, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees.
  • Hotel scams. When staying in a hotel, beware of scammers who use various techniques to obtain credit card information, including fake front desk calls, “free” wi-fi connections and fake food delivery.

Third-party booking site scams

  • If you book your airfare, hotel or other travel through a third-party website, be sure to use caution. BBB Scam Tracker continues to receive reports of scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers. In the most common version of the scam, travelers pay with a credit card and, shortly after making the payment, receive a call from the company asking to verify name, address, banking information or other personal details – something a legitimate company would never do.

Timeshare reselling cons

  • A timeshare owner looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in timeshare resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target into paying an upfront fee. The timeshare owner pays up, but the reselling agent never delivers.

To avoid falling victim to travel scams BBB recommends prospective travelers follow these guidelines:

Get trip details in writing.

  • Before making a final payment, get all the trip details in writing. Details should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels. Also, review and keep a copy of the airline and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies and the travel agency or booking site’s cancellation policies.

“Too good to be true” deals.

  • As is common in various scams, if the deal or discount seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use this tactic to lure in potential victims and use aggressive “limited time” language to entice travelers to pay before researching the business.

Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.

  • These payments are the same as sending cash. Once the money is sent, there is no way to get it back. Paying with a credit card can be disputed and dramatically limits liability from a fraudulent purchase.

Call the rental owner.

  • If you are not using a service that verifies properties and owners, do not
negotiate a rental solely by email. Many scammers don’t live locally. Speaking with the owner on the phone and asking detailed questions about the property and local attractions will clarify whether the listing is genuine. An owner with vague answers is a clear red flag.

Unsolicited offers.

  • Be particularly cautious if you “win” a free trip without entering a contest or sweepstakes. This is especially true if the offer is time-sensitive and requires the consumer to accept and pay for the offer immediately or risk it going to another “winner.” Check the official website of the company the offer is originating from to verify that it is legitimate.
For more tips on how to avoid travel scams, visit BBB.org/Travel. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a travel scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report helps expose scammer tactics and boost consumer awareness. Check out BBB.org or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media. Sign up for our Consumer Edge Newsletter at bbb.org/chicagobuzz
About BBB:
BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served both consumers and trustworthy businesses for over 95 years and is a part of the IABBB. We help protect consumers from scams and provide a free database for consumers to see business ratings and reviews to find businesses they can trust.

The International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB) is the network hub for BBBs in the US, Canada and Mexico. Like BBBs, IABBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers -- instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.
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