Have you noticed the sun starting to set later in the day? Can you hear the chirping sounds of baby birds? If, like me, you’re counting down the days until summer, then you’re probably already planning a vacation getaway. Unfortunately, this is also the time when scammers are out trying to trick you out of your hard earned money.
The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker has recorded a number of travel scams in the Northwest, with consumers reporting a loss of more than $17,700 in the past few months.
This year a Western Washington resident reported losing more than $900 to an online travel company. The individual reported to Scam Tracker that after booking the trip they were unable to reach anyone over the phone. In Vancouver there were reports of someone receiving a call stating they had won a free cruise, if they paid $60 up front. The caller was pushy and loud, trying to pressure them to agree to the deal. Fortunately, the Vancouver resident was disconnected before they got tangled up in the scammers con.
If you have your sights set on planning a dream getaway, BBB serving the Northwest wants to prevent it from turning into a nightmare. Here are five things to remember when planning your vacation:
- Don’t be fooled. Be on the lookout for fake travel websites. Sure, the site appears to be professional, but even con-artists can put together a good-looking webpage.
- Read the fine print. Life happens, and when you are planning a trip months or even years in advance, it’s best to know what your rights are when it comes to cancelling a trip. Read the fine print on cancellation policies to ensure you won’t be losing money if you have to postpone the trip. Also, be on the lookout for any hidden fees that might be tacked on at the end of your trip.
- Rental home scams. Watch for fake rental listings and vacation packages that sound too good to be true. Scammers can easily hijack legitimate online listings and make it look like their own. To avoid getting caught up in a scam its best to deal directly with the property owner or manager. You can also do research online to verify the property you are renting actually exists.
- Don’t get too social. While it’s tempting to live tweet your entire vacation, try to limit what you share online. Thieves sometimes use social media to acquire personal information about travel plans. It’s safer to wait until returning home before uploading those pictures to your Facebook.
- Be Wi-Fi wary. Today many hotels, airports and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi. It’s not difficult for scammers to access personal computers or smart phones on public networks. Also be careful when using computers offered to guests at hotels. Identity thieves are known to add keyloggers onto public computers to track passwords.
Keep your vacation fun by playing it safe this summer. Learn more about scams in your area by visiting www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us.