Avoiding Travel Scams
4 useful tips for safely booking
through an online travel company
Travel scams can damage your vacation, so knowing what to look for is essential. Fortunately, avoiding travel scams is quite easy with a bit of common sense and trust in your gut…
Thieves often prey on tourists in busy transport hubs like train stations and metros by “accidentally” bumping into them while picking their pockets. This is known as the “bump and grab” scam.
1. Don’t pay with a credit card
A travel scam can be a ploy to get personal information from a consumer, steal money, or even rob them physically. Thankfully, travel scams aren’t familiar, but they do occur. The most common scams include timeshare presentations and resale scams, bogus vacation home rental listings, and charter flight offers. The Federal Trade Commission reports it receives more than 53,891 complaints about these and other travel-related frauds yearly, costing consumers $95 million.
The best way to avoid a potential travel scam is to never pay with a credit card. Grobman warns us to be particularly wary of booking deals on sites that allow you to use gift cards or cryptocurrency as payment methods because they are usually not refundable. Also, look up the company online to see any existing reviews.
Other common travel scams involve locals pretending to be helpful, such as a taxi driver who informs you that the attraction you’re headed to is closed for the time being. Then, they offer to take you to another interest or a shop for a “small fee.”
This is a pickpocketing attempt, with the crook stealing your money as you’re distracted. Popular online travel search sites have made booking flights, hotels, and shuttles easier. These sites are great for comparing prices but don’t trust the places they send you to if they ask you to pay with a wire transfer or a cryptocurrency.
2. Check the company’s reputation
Whether you book your flights, hotels, or car rentals online, use a reputable company with a good reputation. Check this reputable company on online travel with an Expedia promo code. This will help to protect your credit card information, prevent you from becoming a victim of fraud, and ensure that you are getting the best deals on your trip.
Many scammers use look-alike websites for airlines, popular travel companies, and federal Trusted Traveler programs to harvest personal information, sell tickets, or trick people into downloading malware. They can also create fake vacation rental listings or duplicate real ones to collect payments for nonexistent bookings, and they offer too-good-to-be-true airfare deals or scams that lure travelers into phony airline ticket transactions by posing as ticket brokers.
Criminals can even hack into a travel company’s global distribution systems (GDS) and steal their booking system login credentials. These can be easily sold on the dark web for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Travel intermediaries can be protected by investing in technologies that allow them to share data and log results from various sites. This way, a company’s algorithms can detect fraud and respond quickly to new threats.
Another risk is hotel booking fraud, which can be committed by a hotel and a travel agent in collusion. The hotel raises room prices, and the fraudster books them through an OTA. Ultimately, the hotel will get hit with chargebacks by travelers who are unhappy with some aspect of their vacation experience.
3. Don’t be pressured
Whether you’re in an online chat session with an agency or on the phone, it is always best to avoid being pressured into making a booking. A company that is not interested in giving you enough time to make an informed decision is likely a scammer. You keep your credit card information private over the phone or via email.
Criminals have been ramping up their activity, targeting vacation travelers and those looking for last-minute travel deals. They use look-alike websites for airlines, hotels, tourist visa procurement, and federal Trusted Traveler programs to harvest personal information or install malware on your computer.
They also take advantage of COVID-19 by falsely claiming to offer travel cancellation insurance covering lost flights. They are creating fake vacation rental listings or duplicating real ones to collect payment from travelers for nonexistent reservations.
There is an uptick in bait-and-switch complaints related to travel booking scams. This type of scam occurs when a consumer books a reservation offered at a low price through an agency they think has a great return or refund policy, but in reality, the terms and conditions of the booking have changed. It is also essential to exercise skepticism when reading online reviews of agencies and property listings, as many fraudulent sites can easily mimic those of legitimate businesses.
4. Don’t pay with cash
Scams are lurking around the globe, often targeting travelers looking for a deal. In addition to “free” vacations, robocalls about travel deals, timeshare presentations, and vacation rental scams, there are also the more traditional robbery and pickpocketing scams.
Using a credit card instead of cash gives you more protection against these scams because you can call the company’s billing department and report unauthorized charges. An excellent way to thwart these scams is to avoid paying with cash whenever possible, especially when traveling abroad. If you use money, count your change and always make it clear that you expect a certain amount back in exchange for the bill.
The best way to avoid travel scams is to research any company or person you’re dealing with before purchasing. A good rule of thumb is that if they aren’t willing to write their offer, there’s probably a reason for it. Also, if they only take bookings by phone or don’t have a website, that’s usually an instant red flag.
Many online travel companies don’t have to pay for a physical location or office staff, so they pass those savings on to their customers. Lastly, don’t book a trip through an agency that won’t give you 24-hour risk-free cancellation.
Safe journey, and enjoy your holidays!