Don’t Get Burned by Travel Scams: Here are Tips to Stay Safe
If you’re like many people around the country, when you plan a vacation, whether domestically or internationally, you take steps to save your pennies and enjoy a trip on a budget. You no doubt carefully research accommodation options, find the cheapest airfares possible, and source affordable tours and restaurant options.
However, do you stop to think about how much money you could blow if you get burned by a travel scam? Sadly, these days there are lots of scams around, so you really need to be careful, both when making bookings before you go on your trip, and once you arrive at your destination(s). Read on for some tips you can follow to protect yourself and your finances on your next vacation.
Authenticate Companies Before You Book and Pay
First up, always authenticate all companies you’re considering booking with before you get out your credit card or other payment method. These days, while there are lots of great online sites offering excellent deals, there are also more scams set up online too. Criminals create fake websites, or upload fake listings on legitimate booking websites, just to get contact information from unsuspecting consumers and, of course, their payment information, too.
As such, verify the authenticity of the person or firm you’re dealing with. Just reading reviews isn’t enough, unfortunately. These can be fraudulently created, so do external research. For instance, start by seeing if there are any inconsistencies in the details provided. Plus, if you can find a phone number listed, dial it and chat to the owner or manager of the company to verify the information you have seen about things like the venue’s location, rates, inclusions and more. If you can’t get through to anyone, this will alert you to a scam, too.
If no phone number is listed, at least send an email to the provider and ask them to get back to you with a contact number so you can call. When chatting with people, ask plenty of questions, and don’t be put off if you get push-back from those who don’t want to answer queries – if they won’t give you the information you’re after, see it as a red flag.
Complete Transactions Carefully
Next, even if you do feel safe about going ahead with a booking, ensure you complete all transactions carefully. Start by asking for written confirmation of the price before you hand over any sensitive information. Your quote should include details such as the number of nights you want to stay or days you want to hire a car for, plus things like the type of room or vehicle you’re booking, details of what exactly is included in a service, what extra charges could be added to your bill, and other details.
Then, when you’re ready to pay, only ever use secure payment options. Don’t agree to deposit funds into a foreign bank account, or provide your financial information via an email or any other type of unsecured pathway. This is how many people get scammed. Avoid online escrow services and wire transfers too, as payments usually can’t be traced using these options.
When paying online with a credit or debit card, only ever type in your details on a site that’s secure. You should be on a HTMLS URL, and see that transactions are being handled by a trusted processing payment gateway that doesn’t store financial or other data. Once a transaction is complete, keep copies of all your payment references and receipts too, just in case you need to refer back to them at any stage.
Steer Clear of Suspicious Offers of Help
Lastly, be aware of some common in-person scams, too. In particular, a big one is people approaching you at airports, train and bus stations, and other transport hubs, and telling you that the hotel, attraction or other spot you want to be taken to is closed at the moment. They then offer to provide you with a better solution. This is usually a blatant lie, and potentially a trap.
If you accept the driver’s offer of assistance, you may find yourself taken to a venue where a thief is lying in wait to steal for you. Alternatively, the taxi driver may be receiving a commission to take you to a different attraction or accommodation option, so that this establishment gets your business instead of your original chosen provider.
If you get into a situation where a “helpful” strange is pressuring you to change your plans, steer clear of them, and stick to your original plans. Find a legitimate cab service (often real companies will display certain logos or other proof of credibility on their vehicles or other ID), or choose a car-sharing service, public transport, or a hire car to get around.