Golden Gate Better Business Bureau
Summer is here which means you’re probably counting down the days until you’re out of the office on your well-deserved vacation. Not only is it a time for rest and relaxation, but it’s also a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor with your friends and family. The problem is, scammers know people are always looking for the best deals and rates for their summer vacation.
In 2017, travel and vacation scams ranked as the eighth riskiest scam according to our BBB Scam Tracker with consumers losing an average of $1,100. Over 2,500 complaints were filed to BBB concerning travel and vacation scams, which is why knowing what to look for can help prevent you from getting caught in this pervasive scam.
Follow these BBB tips to help make sure you have a memorable summer and not one to forget:
- Avoid scams. If you receive an unsolicited email or call claiming you’ve won a free trip, it could be a scam. You’ll never have to pay to receive a free prize. Avoid click-bait ads for cheap vacations. These may lead you to fraudulent websites that will try to steal your personal or financial information. It’s also important to watch out for fake rentals when trying to find a place to stay. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit and avoid contact with renters, who may be left with nothing but a fake reservation or a rental. Only deal with rental companies you can trust – look them up on bbb.org first. Learn more at bbb.org/travelscam and bbb.org/rentalscam.
- Do your research when renting a car. In 2017, consumers filed more than 10,000 complaints against auto renting and leasing companies with BBB. The leading causes of complaints were service and billing issues. Make sure to get car rental estimates from a few different companies, and do your homework. Look up car rental companies on bbb.org to see their rating, complaint history and reviews from past customers. Decide whether you need to buy additional insurance, and ask if there are any extra fees. You can find a BBB guide for renting a car at go.bbb.org/rentalcar.
- Think about a travel agent. In 2017, consumers nationwide filed around 5,000 complaints against travel agents and bureaus with BBB. According to BBB’s Scam Tracker, the most common travel and vacation locations last year were Orlando, Disney, Cancun, and the Bahamas. Take the time to investigate every detail. It’s easy to put up a professional-looking website these days, but it’s much more difficult to register a domain. If you look close enough, you’ll find the red flags. Common complaints about travel agents involved difficulties getting refunds, poor customer service and confusing contracts. Look up businesses at bbb.org before making any decisions.
- Safety first. Be careful connecting to public Wi-Fi, and never enter personal or financial information while using it. It’s also best to wait to post vacation pictures on social media until you return home, otherwise potential thieves will know your house is empty. Make sure to lock up any valuables in a safe when you’re not in your hotel room. Keep important items, like your passport and wallet, close to your body while out and about, and watch out for pickpockets.
- Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Be careful and pay attention to details when you make any purchase or sign any contract – before or during your trip. Read the fine print, ask about additional fees and get everything in writing. Before leaving, verify all of your reservations for lodging and activities by calling the hotel or company directly. Print out any confirmation emails and pages and take them with you in case you run in to any issues and don’t have Internet access. Always pay with a credit card, as they offer more protection than debit and prepaid cards, and let your bank know that you’re traveling beforehand.
- Don’t automatically buy travel insurance. In case something goes wrong, travel insurance may be helpful. It’s designed to reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip. However, there are many different types of plans that cover different things. Ask a lot of questions, read the fine print, and do your research on bbb.org. According to Consumer Reports, a BBB Accredited Charity, “there has been a 20 percent increase in travel insurance policies purchased for vacations for this fall, compared to one year ago.”
If you encounter a scam during the course of your vacation, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others.
You can reach your BBB at email@example.com or (510) 844-2000, or by visiting bbb.org.