Summertime is here! The sun is shining, stay-at-home orders are being lifted and Americans are itching to book some vacation time.
But not so fast; there are still some obstacles to overcome.
Travel and rental scams threaten potential vacationers, whether booking flights or trying to plan accommodations. Luckily, by spotting the red flags of travel scams you can report and recover from fraudulent activity this summer.
When planning your next adventure, there are a few things to keep in mind before booking.
Always read the reviews. It’s important to do some research and read past reviews before booking. When there are few reviews, or even no reviews, this isn’t a good sign. If you think the accommodation you have booked may have been a scam, report the fraudulent activity to the site where the referral was posted.
Make sure the website is legitimate. A secure website will have a URL that starts with “https://”. When the “s” is missing (http://), this means that the website is not secure. Connecting your payment information to an unsecure site is risky and you should contact your financial institution immediately if you think you have been scammed.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. With many things in life, when things are a little too good, it’s always a little suspicious. The same goes for hotel listings. When the pictures look amazing, you get so many amenities, and the place looks like it should be well out of your price range, but it’s dirt cheap – it’s probably a scam.
Sometimes the website doesn’t seem fishy, and it’s only when you are in the booking process when you can start to spot a scam. When booking, there are some critical red flags to make note of before sealing the deal on your vacation.
Payment can only be done over the phone or with no written contract. When making a payment, especially one as large as a hotel or flight, you should receive written payment confirmation. Scammers will try to lure potential customers to make their payments solely through a phone call and erase all evidence of payment. If you’ve made a payment over the phone or did not receive a written contract of your payment – you should contact your financial institution immediately to dispute the charge.
They accept gift cards as payment. Scammers typically ask for money through money transfers or gift cards. When asked for these types of payment, it’s a red flag. If you paid with a gift card you won’t be able to get your money back, but you should still report the incident to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The more national reporting data that is collected, the better the chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease online crime.
The price is well below market value. It’s easy to jump on a limited-time-only or discounted price, but when the price looks a little too cheap – it is most likely a scam. Even though the listed payment may be small, scammers can steal more funds after accessing your bank information. If you think your payment is a scam, you should report it, no matter how small, to protect against further harm.
Cybercriminals are clever and use tactics to make things seem as legitimate as possible. Here are some red flags to spot just days before your vacation or even upon arriving at your destination.
Last-minute plans. When plans are rushed in a last-minute fashion, there is a greater chance for a scam to take place. Planning days before you leave or even for the next day is a tricky task. As a general rule, slow down and be cautious. If you think your vacation may have been affected by a scam, your first step is to collect all relevant documentation related to the scam in order to report. Then visit Fightcybercrime.org for more reporting and recovery help.
Your host has gone MIA. When booking accommodations, it is typical for your host to reach out to you a few days before your departure and the day of your arrival. If your host has cut off communication with you at any point and you feel you may have been scammed, report the incident.
The property is not as described. Upon arrival, you may find that the property is not exactly what you thought it would be. You should check with your host and find out what has gone wrong. If the host does not respond or ignores your concerns, you should report the incident to the site where you booked to help prevent future customers from being scammed.
If you’ve experienced a travel scam, please visit FightCybercrime.org for help with reporting and recovery.