Ahhh… there’s nothing like a good vacation! Whether it’s the beach, the mountains, or an exotic getaway, we all love the chance to kick back, unwind, and escape from the daily grind.
Unfortunately, scammers also know how much we love vacations and will go to great lengths to separate us from our hard-earned money.
Here are three common vacation scams to watch out for, and what you can do to avoid getting ripped off.
The Vacation Rental Scam
Unless you happen to live close by, it’s nearly impossible to verify the condition or even the existence of your vacation rental. Scammers take advantage of this reality by posting bogus vacation rental homes in online classified ads or forums. These ads are usually bursting with detail, describing the luxuries of the rental and an incredibly low price. In order to book your stay, you’re required to pay a large upfront deposit.
Unfortunately, once you arrive at your destination and realize it was all a scam, the scammer and your money are nowhere to be found.
The Sweepstakes Scam
We all love the idea of winning something big, and scammers prey on this desire. They will notify you, either by snail mail or email, that you have won an all-expense-paid trip to some exotic location.
The catch? You have to pay a “service fee” or “handling charge” in order to claim your prize, and it must be paid via debit card or wire transfer. Red flag, anyone?
The Social Media “Free Vacation” Scam
Have you even seen a post pop up in your Facebook news feed asking you to click on a link for a chance to win a free all-expenses-paid trip? Yep… that’s probably a social media “free vacation” scam.
It all begins when a scammer shares a sweepstakes-like post on social media. To get more exposure, they invite you to like or comment on the post to enter for a chance to win. Once the post has received thousands of engagements, they slightly tweak the post, and ask people to click on a link to enter the contest. But it’s not just any link – this link directs to a website that allows the scammer to steal your personal information.
Tips for Avoiding Vacation Scams
As you make your vacation plans, avoid getting scammed by putting these tips into practice:
- Offers that sound "too good to be true" almost always are.
- Be very cautious of the word "free."
- Always use a company's direct website when finding and evaluating special offers.
- Unsolicited offers are usually fake.
- Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics like “Today Only” deals or limited offers.
Do Your Research
Always do independent research when assessing a vacation offer. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if the business is accredited and verify that the company is properly licensed before giving away your personal information.
Hotels and timeshares are regulated by the state in which they’re located. To verify a license or file a complaint about a hotel or timeshare in Florida, visit www.myfloridalicense.com.
Travel agencies and promoters of travel-related services are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. To verify a license or file a complaint, visit www.freshfromflorida.com.
Complaints regarding travel scams or suspicious activities can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you suspect you are a victim of financial fraud, report it to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation
, either online or by calling 850-487-9687.