Preventing Vacation and Travel Scams: A Consumer’s Guide

Preventing Vacation and Travel Scams: A Consumer’s Guide
Topics Fraud PreventionIdentity TheftOnline Security

The excitement of an upcoming vacation can quickly turn into dread if you’re a victim to vacation scams targeting unsuspecting travelers.

With the rise of online booking platforms and social media, scammers have been quick to capitalize on the opportunity to steal travelers’ money and personal information.

Here is a guide to help safeguard against nefarious actors and their schemes.

Planning and Booking Tips

  • Research: One of the first steps in planning any vacation typically involves doing your research on your destination. It’s important that you also research the authenticity of any vacation booking platform or location before using it.
  • Check the Reviews: Search for reviews of the booking platform and destination to ensure they’re reputable. If the property has only glowing reviews but only on one platform or the reviews all sound the same, it could be a red flag. Ensure you’re checking reviews on multiple websites to confirm they’re authentic.
  • Reverse Image Search: Fake vacation rentals often use stolen photos of legitimate properties. Running a reverse image search on the photos of the location prior to booking can identify if the photos are being used elsewhere for a different listing or property.
  • Read the Fine Print: Before registering for any website, it is important to carefully review the site’s booking policies, terms and conditions, particularly when it comes to cancellation and refund policies.
  • Phishing Awareness: It is important to remain vigilant of phishing attempts through email, text and other digital messages. Clicking a phishing link can enable scammers to install malware on your device to steal your personal information. Scammers have been known to impersonate legitimate businesses, including travel agencies and booking platforms, as well as use fake online advertisements for travel deals to lure unsuspecting victims. Be cautious of clicking any unsolicited links, and if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Spelling mistakes, branding that doesn’t look quite right and poor image quality can be red flags that it’s a scam.
  • Verify Your Host: Whenever booking your stay, it is important to research the legitimacy of the host or company renting the property as well. Look for hosts that are responsive and consistent in their communications and verify their legitimacy through the booking platform wherever possible.
  • Protect Your Personal and Payment Information: Ensure you’re booking your trip in a way that will protect your sensitive information. Never book a trip or send your financial information via an unsecured network. Using a VPN or your device’s data plan instead can help prevent scammers from intercepting your information. Scammers may even offer a “discount” for sending payment via a particular platform or via gift cards, cash or cryptocurrency. These are red flags the deal is too good to be true and a scammer is trying to steal your information.
  • Secure Your Devices: Before departing for your destination, ensure your devices are updated with the latest software and consider turning on the features to help you find a misplaced or stolen device. Set a passcode for your device or turn on the biometric lock/unlock feature, set strong passwords for your online accounts and exercise caution before using public Wi-Fi.

    Also, never hand your phone over to a stranger. Scammers ask unsuspecting victims to donate money for fundraisers and other reasons. Once you hand them your phone for payment, they quickly enter a large dollar payment and run off. This leaves you with little recourse if the payment was issued by your device.

  • Notify Your Bank: Banks are continuously attempting to protect your accounts. As part of this effort, transactions occurring in a locality where you don’t reside may get flagged or be blocked by their systems, especially ones in another country. To prevent any inconvenience and to assist your bank in combatting fraud, it is helpful to notify your bank when you are traveling, especially internationally.
  • Social Media Posting: Be cautious about posting on social media that you are on vacation and where you are. This could broadcast to a would-be burglar that your home is unoccupied.
  • Remain Diligent About Reviewing Account Activity: If a scammer does manage to gain access to your accounts, quick identification of unauthorized access along with immediately notifying your bank will help thwart them and limit the financial damage.

Vacation season should be an exciting time filled with joy and memories that can last a lifetime. By taking precautions, staying informed and adopting secure booking practices, you can help protect your finances and ensure your vacation is filled with happy memories.

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