As weather warms, scammers poised to take advantage of people looking for cheap travel deals

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With winter nearly in the rearview mirror, thoughts turn to sunny days and a chance to get away from it all.

Once the winter’s thaw breaks, people often hit the road. Scammers know this as well and are poised to take advantage, especially around spring break and into the summer travel season.

Consumers reported more than $565,000 in travel-related losses last year to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker. Travel-related fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network reached nearly $80 million in losses through the first three quarters of 2022. 

The scammers often will target people looking for good travel deals online by offering tempting packages at too-good-to-be-true prices. 

A woman from Troy, Mo., reported losing $1,100 to a scammer to BBB’s Scam Tracker in December 2022. She said she believed she was working with a national travel agency and was told it did not accept debit or credit cards. Instead the woman was asked to pay via an electronic peer-to-peer payment method. After sending the money through an app, the woman said she went back online to try to find the listing she answered. It was no longer available.

There are a few tips to help avoid being scammed on your way to fun in the sun:

  • Avoid broad internet searches. Entering phrases like “best deal” for your destination city can sometimes bring up websites that may look official, but often they are designed to rip people off.
  • Be alert for travel scams. Watch out for unsolicited phone calls, text messages, emails or mailers that claim you’ve won a “free trip.” It’s easy to extend questionable offers like these, but many leave the travelers in limbo and subject to many different fees.
  • Get the details in writing. Before making a final payment for the trip, get all of the details in writing. This should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and the names of the airlines and hotels. Review and keep a copy of the policies for cancellation of the airline and hotel, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site used.
  • Consider travel insurance. These policies cover things like trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different levels of coverage based on what type of plan is purchased. Ask questions and read the fine print to see what is covered and what isn’t.
  • Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card provides additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.
  • Turn to BBB. One place to find reputable travel agencies, agencies and websites is bbb.org

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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