July 23, 2018 Beth Ann Tabak See all posts in Fraud and Identity Theft Four tips to avoiding summer travel scams Are you one of the 63.5 percent of Americans planning to take a vacation this summer? Unfortunately, the summer is prime time to take advantage of those looking for a little time away. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that it received more than 2,500 vacation and travel scam complaints in the United States in 2017. Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from travel fraud. Watch out for “free” vacations You’ve heard the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” right? The same goes for a vacation. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you receive an unsolicited phone call or email from someone offering you a free vacation, it’s probably a scam. Don’t agree to anything without properly vetting the company contacting you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also warns that scammers will offer you a free vacation but then request a large down payment or pressure you into paying via wire transfer for multiple add-ons that you’ll never receive because the vacation isn’t real in the first place. Not only are you out of a vacation but you’re out of the funds sent to “upgrade” it. Don’t get caught up in a fake rental Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently warned against a number of summer scams. Among them are those that advertise a rental property that is not actually available. The person advertising the property requires that the prospective renters wire a deposit to their account before the renter can see the property. Once the money is wired, the scammer disappears with the money and there is no property to be rented. This brings us to our next point … Pay by credit card Beware those who request money sent via wire transfer. If you are going to purchase anything vacation-related over the internet or even the phone, pay by credit card. A wire transfer is an immediate, irreversible form of payment with no protection for the person wiring the money. Probably why scammers love wire transfers so much, right? On the other hand, credit card users have significant protections under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), which help reclaim money obtained by a fraudster. Do your research Protect yourself by doing your research before entering into any agreement. The BBB has several suggestions of how to research the company with which you are booking your vacation or rental property, including checking public records, investigating via Google or another search engine, searching for online reviews and if possible, obtaining references that you can contact. If you contact the references and they seem vague in their answers to your questions, it could be a red flag. One more tip when researching: make sure that the company’s site begins with an https:// rather than an http://. The “s” at the end indicates it’s a secure site, which means more security for your financial transactions and that it’s more likely to be a legitimate business.