How to avoid travel scams ahead of your spring break vacation: Better Business Bureau

ByAnn Pistone WLS logo
Saturday, March 11, 2023
How to avoid travel scams ahead of your spring break vacation
Going on a spring break vacation? Here's how to avoid travel scams.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It is spring break travel season, and scammers are trying to steal your travel plans.

The Better Business Bureau said thieves are offering fraudulent vacation rentals, bookings and using fake travel sites.

Here are some tips for avoiding those scams:

  • Before making a final payment to a travel service, get all the trip details in writing. Details should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels.
  • Watch for third-party booking site scams. If you book your airfare, hotel or other travel through a third-party website, be sure to use caution. The BBB Scam Tracker has continued to receive reports of scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers.
  • Beware of "too good to be true" deals. Scammers often use deep discounts to lure in potential victims and use aggressive "limited time" language to entice travelers to pay before researching.
  • Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. These payments are the same as sending cash. Paying with a credit card offers some protection 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 or via video call and asking detailed questions about the property and local attractions will help clarify whether the listing is genuine.

And, beware of these other scams:

  • Vacation rental cons: Fraudsters 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 doing sufficient research or questioning the legitimacy of the ad.
  • "Free" vacation scams: Often offered as an enticing prize, these get victims to pay taxes, fees and other charges before they learn the offer is fake. Even when booking with a legitimate company, beware a low price may mean travel restrictions, add-on fees for air transportation, port charges, taxes, tips and other 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.
  • 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.