The cold and dreary weather has many people looking for sunnier skies and warmer air. When looking for a good deal for a family vacation or getaway, the Better Business Bureau encourages people to plan ahead to save money, avoid scams, and travel safely. BBB is warning consumers about two scams that could be costly when planning a vacation.
Fake airline booking sites:
Scammers create fake airline booking sites and customer service numbers to charge travelers for rescheduling flights. Victims use an online search and stumble across these fake sites offering cheap flights from major airlines. Shortly after booking on the fake site, the victims receive a call from a scammer pretending to be from the company, stating there was a price increase or extra charge to finalize booking.
Scammers also send fake cancellation notices to people who booked real flights through major airlines. The fake texts and emails include a phone number to rebook where scammers on the other end take victims’ personal and payment information.
Last year, a Grand Rapids-area man was looking to quickly book flights due to a family emergency. He came across a third party site claiming to offer Delta Airlines flights. When attempting to give his payment information over the phone, the scammer told him the cards he was providing were not working. The scammer charged each card with hundreds of dollars for fake tickets and bogus travel agency fees. The man lost nearly $1500 and ended up having to buy actual tickets at the airport to make the flight. As of January 2023, he has not been able to get his money back.
Do your research. Look the company up on bbb.org if you haven’t worked with them before. If you receive a cancellation text or email, confirm the information – like reservation or flight numbers – before calling customer support.
Be wary of third-party websites & double-check the URL before you enter payment information. Make sure you are on the right website, and the page is secure. (URL says https// and there is a lock symbol). Sites without working phone numbers or physical addresses are a red flag.
Vacation rental scam:
Watch out for listings that either aren’t for rent, don’t exist, or are significantly different than pictured. Scammers lure in victims with prices that are too good to be true. A common scam tactic is to create a false sense of urgency in order to get the money before the victim has time to think it through. Flashy ads can entice consumers to click and enter fake booking websites that look similar to legitimate ones.
Avoid broad internet searches. Searching phrases like ‘best deals’ can sometimes bring up-websites that look official, but are actually fake. Make sure you are on the correct website and it’s a company you’ve heard of.
Talk to the owner by phone. If you are not using a service that verifies properties and owners, don’t negotiate by email or text only. Ask detailed questions about the property and local attractions. If the answers are vague, this is a red flag of a scam.
Check public records. Look up the property and use Google Street View to confirm the property matches the one advertised.
Other tips to ensure a fraud-free vacation:
Plan ahead. Allow plenty of time to research hotels, flights, and the area where you will be staying. Typically, the earlier reservations are made, the better the deals.
Use a credit card. Fraudulent charges on credit cards can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods.
Review policies. Keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site used.
Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance covers things like trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different levels of coverage based on what type of plan purchased. Learn more about whether travel insurance is right for you.
Consider a travel agent. Always check business profiles on www.BBB.org and try to use someone local. Learn how to find the right travel agent for you.