BBB Tip: Avoid Travel Scams When Planning Spring Break | Business

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Spring break offers families and students the opportunity to travel during school holidays. However, it also allows scammers to offer fraudulent vacation rentals, third-party booking sites, and travel agencies designed to appeal to the getaway-seeking consumer.

With spring break for many school districts over the next month, many consumers are planning their trips and finalizing their payments, some of which will fall directly into the hands of scammers.

From February to March 31, 2021, US consumers lost nearly $160,000 to travel scams at an average of nearly $3,200 compared, according to data provided by BBB Scam Tracker. Scammers often take advantage of consumer habits and capitalize on internet search trends, enticing consumers with great deals to popular destinations or all-inclusive packages. While these scams persist year-round, their frequency often increases during travel-intensive times, such as spring break and holidays or the summer season.

So far this year, US consumers have reported more than $80,000 lost to travel scams, an increase of 187% in monetary losses compared to the same period in 2021. According to reports from the network FTC’s Consumer Sentinel, travel fraud cost US consumers $74.7 million. in losses and accounted for 27% of all fraud reported to the agency in the first three quarters of 2021.

“The best way to avoid falling for a travel scam is to start planning early, so you don’t rush into last-minute arrangements,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications. of the Better Business Bureau serving the heartland of Texas. “Scammers capitalize on consumers in a hurry and may not have the time to verify that they are booking with a legitimate place or business. Always check and be sure to check any complaints or reviews from customers on BBB.org.

To help consumers identify and avoid the most common travel scams, BBB provides the following brief descriptions of the top five most reported travel scams:

Holiday con.

  • These scammers lure vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. The “owner” creates a false sense of urgency – like telling potential guests that another vacationer is interested in renting – to get paid before doing enough research or questioning the legitimacy of the listing.

“Free” vacation scams.

  • When a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it doesn’t necessarily mean the trip is free of charge or restrictions. Beware of additional charges for airfare, port charges, taxes, tips, and other undisclosed charges.
  • Hotel scams. When staying at a hotel, beware of scammers who use a variety of techniques to obtain credit card information, including fake front desk calls, “free” Wi-Fi, and fake food deliveries.

Scams on third-party booking sites.

  • If you book your airfare, hotel, or other travel through a third-party website, be careful. BBB Scam Tracker continues to receive reports from 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 payment, receive a call from the company asking to verify name, address, banking information or other personal details – something a legitimate business would never do.

Timeshare Resell Counter.

  • A timeshare owner looking to sell receives a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in reselling timeshares and promise to have buyers ready to buy. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target to pay an upfront fee. The timeshare owner pays, but the reseller agent never delivers.

To avoid falling victim to a Spring Break travel scam, the Better Business Bureau recommends that potential travelers follow these guidelines:

Get trip details in writing.

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

“Too good to be true” offers.

  • As is often the case with various scams, if the offer or discount seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use this tactic to lure potential victims and use aggressive “limited time” language to trick travelers into paying before researching the company.

Avoid transferring 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 greatly limits liability for a fraudulent purchase.

Call the owner of the rental.

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

Unsolicited offers.

  • Be especially careful if you “win” a free trip without entering a contest or sweepstakes. This is especially true if the offer is urgent 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 where the offer originated 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 the victim of a travel scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. The information provided could prevent another person from being victimized.

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