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5 Travel Fraud Schemes That Could Rip You Off

Don’t let that dream trip turn into “too good to be true” by staying on the lookout for these travel fraud schemes.

With labor day coming up, you might be daydreaming about a little well deserved R&R. If you fall victim to a travel fraud scam, your dream trip could quickly lose its luster. Learn about the following travel rip-offs before you depart, so you can make plans and enjoy your trip worry-free.

“You’ve Won a Free Trip”

It’s hard not to get excited when you get mail or a phone call announcing that you’ve won a free luxury cruise or hotel stay. While it is entirely possible to luck out on a contest, if you don’t remember entering one, you should have your guard up. The fact is, these “free” trip scams usually have hidden costs. Consumers are asked to pay inflated amounts for expenses such as airfare, taxes, fees, and surcharges. Then, the luxury accommodations promised turn out to be much more modest than described. In some cases, they may even be unsanitary or unsafe. In the end, you significantly overpay for your “free” vacation.

“Get Free Stuff with My Time Share Presentation”

It sounds simple enough. Listen to a sales pitch, and get rewarded with a dinner voucher, or tickets to a show or amusement park. Sometimes the agent really does make good on the promised freebie, even if you refuse the offer. You will, however, probably be subjected to a very long spiel (sometimes all day) and extremely high pressure to purchase a time share. Often, if you are a reluctant viewer, the sales pitches can be downright intimidating. In the most extreme cases, threats of violence have been reported. Some time share scams are even meant to cheat you out of the freebie. You’ll find out later that it actually only applied if you purchased the time share, or that there are taxes and fees involved that are much higher than the value of the freebie.

“Can You Wire the Money?”

Once you’ve wire transferred money to a supposed agent or vendor, you have very little recourse if it turns out you were dealing with a scammer. Some fraudsters will post ads online for travel services like airline tickets or vacation rentals. The prices will seem too good to be true, and the seller will ask that the purchase be made by wire. They may claim your credit card was declined, and the fare will go back up if payment isn’t sent quickly. Or, they may claim to be private citizens renting out their homes with no ability to take credit cards. Once they have your money, you never hear from them again. Any flight information or rental property addresses that were sent turn out to be fake. While you can dispute and/or track a situation like this when you pay by credit card or check, a wired transaction is often impossible to investigate.

“I’ll Drive You There”

Con artists prey on tourists because they know visitors are likely to be disoriented in an unfamiliar location. Crooked taxi companies and criminals posing as taxi drivers often use faulty meters, threats, and/or intimidation to overcharge passengers. In the worst cases, the drivers may also attempt to steal your belongings. Always settle on fare pricing before getting into a taxi, and make sure a state-issued license is on display. If you’re in a foreign country, look for a company name on the car (preferably one you’ve seen frequently in the area), and a driver information card on display.

“Can You Verify Your Credit Card Number?”

An emerging travel scam involves criminals calling hotel rooms and asking patrons to recite their credit card information. The fraudsters pose as front desk employees, and act like there was a problem processing the victim’s payment. Often they will call late at night, when the tourist is tired and caught off guard. Never give credit card information to hotel representatives over the phone. Instead, offer to stop at the front desk during the day to sort out payment problems in person.

For more information on how to respond if you become a victim of crime overseas, read our tips here.


One Comment

  1. Gopal Das says:

    I think everybody should check out the Scam Detector app. I believe they’re online as well.