Everyone knows that scamming is at an all-time high. Social media and pop culture has glamorized fast money for decades, and the proof is evident through the 2.4 million fraud reports filed in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The travel and tourism industry is no exception. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, American travelers filed almost 30,000 business complaints against travel businesses between 2020 and 2022. Those complaints were followed by 10,000 negative reviews citing everything from unsolicited offers to travelers never receiving they’d services paid for. 

The FTC says young people are more susceptible to being victims of fraud. However, no travelers seem to be safe as travel scams sweep America. According to the BBB, American travelers have lost $265,000 to travel scams so far in 2023. The data is on track to meet or surpass the $600,000 Americans lost to travel schemes in 2022. 

With fraud happening effortlessly every day, booking a vacation may cause more anxiety than relief. After all, who wants to lose thousands of dollars to a shady travel agent or a scheming third-party site?

You can protect yourself from travel scams by paying attention to the fine print when preparing to travel. The best way to make your dollar stretch this summer may be as simple as ducking and dodging a few travel crooks.

Vacation Rental & Hotel Scams

travel scams
Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto

The BBB says that vacation rental units and hotel schemes are some of the most popular travel scams they’ve seen. In an interview with CBS, President of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau Jim Temmer said that con artists are using high-pressure sales tactics to lure travelers into being scammed. 

It’s vital when booking vacation stay accommodations that travelers get exactly what they paid for. However, the new study reveals that a lot of travelers say they’ve arrived at their accommodations only for it to look nothing like the online post. The BBB warns travelers to watch out for places that don’t look how they appear online. 

They also advise travelers to be leery of rental properties that don’t exist or that aren’t available for rent. A good way to avoid these types of scammers is to use your discernment whenever a host is pressuring you to book quickly or rushing your purchase decision. You can also stick with properties listed on reputable sites like Airbnb or VRBO. Even with these sites, be sure to check host reviews and use your best judgment. 

Another common travel scam on the BBB radar is hotel schemes. While booking your stay might be safe, there have been reports of con artists calling guest rooms pretending to be the front desk requesting debit card information.

Beware of Third-Party Booking & Timeshare Fraud

Sketchy third-party booking websites and timeshare fraud have also become more common, according to the BBB Scam Tracker. The organization received over 1,000 reports over the last three years from victims of timeshare fraud. Their losses amount to $3.5 million. 

Some third-party booking sites have also been culprits in the mounting travel scams happening across the country. The sites promise to connect travelers with the best deals on flights, hotels, and rentals but steal their banking and credit card information once they make the purchase.

Research Is Your Best Friend

travel scams
Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

There are many steps you can take to protect yourself from travel fraud. The biggest one is doing proper research before ever entering your credit card information online or providing it to a service provider. A quick Google search will yield results containing the name of any business you’re considering hiring to book your travel. It also doesn’t hurt to check the BBB website to see if any complaints have been filed against the said business. 

Moving too fast naturally can lead to mistakes and mishaps. To avoid being scammed due to booking last minute out of desperation, schedule your travel plans ahead of time to give yourself proper time to research and prepare. 

Beware of anyone contacting you via unknown phone numbers and emails saying you’ve won a free trip. The BBB has identified this as another tactic travel scammers are using to attain travelers’ banking information. So if you receive a random call saying you’ve won a free vacation that you never submitted to win, it’s probably fraudulent.

Travel scams are more than likely here to stay. So the best thing you can do is take precautions to avoid unsavory opportunities when planning your next getaway.