With summer just around the corner, everyone dreams of taking a much needed vacation. To help you have a safe and enjoyable trip, the Scam Awareness Alliance team has highlighted a few of the most common vacation scams to avoid.
Luckily, newspapers like the Seattle Times are warning their readers about some of the most common vacation scams, from phony wake-up calls to fake vacation homes. You wouldn't think it could happen to you, but some vacationers have unknowingly given their credit card information to scammers - even in the middle of the night. A common trick is for a scammer to call your hotel room at 3 a.m., say it's the front desk, and ask you to verify your credit card information. You're half-asleep, so you recite your card number, expiration date, and security number - all without thinking. Before you know it, the person has hung up, and you've "landed in the hands of scammers".
When booking a vacation, watch out for mysterious required fees. In Ohio, residents were targeted by travel "rewards clubs" that offered discounts and perks in exchange for these "small fees". The company in question, Dreamworks Vacation Club, sent discounted tickets and vouchers with labels of major airlines that looked "pretty legitimate", one customer said, but found that the deals were already expired - or never existed - after trying to use them. The couple who ran the scam have since been sentenced to prison, probation and restitution payments - but not after more than 300 people paid $3 million to join the "club".
After a wave of travel scams in West Virginia, the state's Attorney General Patrick Morsey cautioned vacationers to look out for all sorts of red flags. "This can happen to anyone," Morsey said, so it's important to take advantage of smart phones and social media to stay updated with occasional scam warnings issued by the government. If you think you're being scammed, contact law enforcement immediately. However, always be vigilant because sometimes, it's too late. "There are a lot of people who can just slap together a professional-looking website pretty quickly, and in fact try to rip people off. And by the time law enforcement comes back around they could be gone," he said.
Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi has also issued helpful tips to avoid summertime travel scams. Among others, Bondi suggests only doing business with "an established company" (meaning, do your research); being wary of foreign telephone numbers; visiting the property before signing a contract; and always being cautious of companies that request payments before confirming reservations.
After reading this important advice, Scam Awareness Alliance wants you to have a fun and scam-free summer! As always, be sure to check out more of our posts to learn about more ways to keep your money safe and secure.