Summer is a time for sunshine, relaxation, and fun family getaways. Unfortunately, it’s also the prime season for vacation scammers.
Fraudsters are always looking to take advantage of unsuspecting vacationers eager to get a “good deal” on their travel plans, especially during the summer months. If you’re not careful, you may end up becoming a victim of a scam designed to trick travelers out of their money.
Travel scams are most prevalent in popular vacation spots and busy tourist cities, but they can happen anywhere you go. Before you head off on your summer trip, review these common vacation scams and the warning signs of an offer that’s too good to be true. And don’t forget to make sure your home is kept safe while you're away.
Fake Rental Ads And Booking Websites
The FTC warns that scam artists often advertise fake vacation rentals (or real rental properties with their own contact information) in an attempt to get vacationers to wire them money before they realize they’ve been tricked. Similarly, some fraudulent third-party booking services will collect money for your travel accommodations without actually making the reservation.
Street Retail Bullies
If you’ve ever spent time in a big city, you’ve probably seen people walking around handing out seemingly free items, like CDs, flowers, string bracelets, etc. According to MentalFloss, these “bullies” will follow you around and harass you demanding payment for the item. If someone is handing out anything but a paper flyer on the street, it’s best not to accept.
Metro Ticket Scams
Be aware of this tricky scheme if you’re visiting a city with a public transit system. Tourist-Scams.com reports that scammers will seek out tourists who look like they’re struggling with the ticket vending machine. They’ll offer to “help” you buy the ticket you need in exchange for cash, and then secretly hand you a lower-priced or invalid ticket. The victims won’t know they can’t use their ticket until the criminal is long gone. Don’t accept help buying a transit ticket from anyone other than a uniformed station agent.
Fake Food Delivery Services
Have you ever found a take-out menu at your hotel door? Don’t order from it – it could be a scam, says MentalFloss. The fraudster will put their own phone number on a realistic-looking menu, and when you call, they’ll take your order – and your credit card information. If you want to get delivery during your vacation, verify that the establishment and contact information is real, and pay in cash when they arrive at your door.
How To Stay Safe And Avoid Vacation Scams While You’re Traveling
No vacation destination is guaranteed to be 100 percent fraud-free, but you can decrease your chances of getting duped by following some basic travel safety tips. CNBC recommends not posting about your trip on social media until you get home, as knowing your whereabouts can make it easier for criminals to track you. You should also avoid public Wi-Fi networks and add a password and tracking tool to your mobile device, in case it falls into the wrong hands.
CNBC also advised taking only the documents and credit cards you’ll need during your trip (for instance, don’t bring your passport if you’re not traveling abroad). Finally, make copies of your identification and write down contact information for your credit cards and medical insurance carrier so you’ll know who to contact if your wallet is stolen during your trip.
It may seem overly cautious to take these steps, but the peace of mind you’ll have during your vacation is well worth the effort.