WTOC Investigates: Avoiding travel & vacation scams

Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 3:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2023 at 6:20 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With Independence Day around the corner and summer in full swing, many of you are planning a trip to relax and unwind.

But scammers are looking to take advantage of your vacation plans.

Last year, Americans lost more than $100 million to travel-related fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. More than 10,000 people have already reported travel scams so far this year.

Tom Stephens, with the Better Business Bureau, said scammers are impersonating legitimate vacation booking sites to steal your hard-earned money.

“Anything that has to do with travel on the internet you have to be really careful to make sure you’re really dealing with who you think you’re dealing with. Because scammers can take a site and make it look like Orbitz or Expedia or Delta Air Lines or Carnival Cruise lines or whatever,” Stephens said.

Stephens said one of the most common scams right now involves fake vacation rental listings. Offering-up other people’s homes, and then pocketing your cash.

“It’s either the house doesn’t exist, or the people who actually own it and live there were not planning to rent it out. And so, somebody shows up at their place on a Saturday afternoon and says ‘OK, we’re here to move in for the next week’ and it’s ‘what the heck are you talking about?’ so it happens more frequently than you would think,” Stephens said.

The Better Business Bureau’s top tips to avoid vacation scams include:

  1. Avoid sellers on travel platforms who ask you to leave that platform to arrange payment.
  2. Beware of any seller who doesn’t take credit cards.
  3. Or charges large upfront fees, especially in the form of wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.

Those forms of payment are like sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

The biggest red flag, according to Stephens, is any deal that looks too good to be true.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a vacation scam, you can report it to the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Click here to file a complaint.

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