Don’t Get Scammed on Vacation This Summer3 min read
Nothing can ruin a vacation quicker than falling for a scam. Whether it happens during the planning stages or while you’re at your destination, it can leave you feeling cheated, gullible, and ripped off. In the worst case scenario, it can put your finances in jeopardy and force you to cut your trip short – or cancel it all together.
Scammers use variations on several common themes, so knowing what to look out for can help you avoid a costly mistake. Don’t let your kind heart and lack of travel experience part you from your hard-earned salary.
Airline Points Phone Call Scam
The scam: You receive a phone call claiming you’ve won airline or frequent flyer miles. They ask for information to process your winnings, such as a credit card number or frequent flyer number. In reality, they steal your identity and your money.
How to avoid it: Never give out your information to someone on the phone. No legitimate company will call to ask for account numbers or social security numbers. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Vacation Rental Scams
The scam: You find a beautiful rental property online at a rock-bottom price. When you show up for your vacation, the property looks nothing like its listing – or doesn’t exist at all. Fake booking sites pull a bait and switch, or simply steal your credit card number when you book.
How to avoid it: Never book a vacation through a website you don’t recognize. You should typically book through the hotel itself, with a local realtor at your destination, or through a reputable rental aggregator like AirBnB.
“Free” Vacation Scams
The scam: You’re told you’ve won a free vacation, but in reality it’s not free at all. You’re asked to attend a live presentation, where you’re informed about upfront fees, a travel club you have to join, or a timeshare you must buy.
How to avoid it: There are always hidden fees in these scams. If you receive a call, hang up. Also, do not follow any directions when prompted to “press 1 to be removed from our call list” – this is simply the scammers way to verify your phone number.
The Short Change Scam
The scam: A vendor or cab driver takes your money and then shows you a smaller denomination bill, claiming you underpaid or shortchanged them. In reality, they switched bills when you weren’t paying attention.
How to avoid it: Count your money out loud when handing it to the cashier. That way there is no room for questions or switches when your back is turned.
The Fake Limo Service Scam
The scam: You arrive at the airport and get offered a ride to your hotel from an unlicensed cab or limo driver. They charge you extra by taking a longer route, or hold your luggage in the trunk until you pay more than what was agreed.
How to avoid it: Arrange for transportation to the hotel before your trip if possible. Or, use only licensed cab companies at the airport and follow these safety tips when traveling.
The “Need Money for the Train” Scam
The scam: Popular in big cities, this scam involves a sob story from someone who has lost their wallet and needs money to get home. There are many variations, but typically the person will say they have had some bad luck. They may even offer to send you the money if you give them your address.
How to avoid it: Don’t get sucked into the story they tell. It’s best to keep walking, or offer to help them find a police officer who can help. This will quickly put an end to their request. It’s also never a good idea to give your personal information, such as your home address, to a stranger.