If a much-needed vacation is calling, you may be tempted to pack your bags and take advantage of a last-minute deal. But you may want to think twice. That vacation-package offer that seems too good to be true may be just that.
According to the 2018 Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker Risk Report, susceptibility of falling for a scam rose 86.7 percent last year. That means it’s getting tougher to decipher a scam from a legitimate offer.
The BBB offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to a vacation scam:
Take your time. Being able to book everything online makes it easy to have all the details of a trip wrapped up in no time. But when you’re rushing, that’s when you’re most likely to be scammed. Take the time to research the website you’re booking through, being sure to understand all fees, the terms and conditions of your booking, and the refund policies.
Watch your search terms. The BBB says to avoid using phrases like "cheap travel” and “best deals.” Such broad search terms can sometimes lead to websites that look official, but are actually designed to scam you.
There’s no such thing as a free trip. Phone calls and letters informing you that you’ve “won a trip” usually leave travelers without said trip and/or paying a hefty bill.
Get it in writing. If you do sign up for a vacation deal, before you make the final payment, get all the details in writing, including the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, names of airlines, flight numbers and hotels. Review and keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site you're using.
Always pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card as opposed to a debit card or check provides an added layer of protection should your travel plan turn out to be fraudulent. You can then freeze the charge with your credit card company, as opposed to being out the cash.
While the best way to avoid a vacation scam is to plan in advance, these few simple steps will help make sure your last-minute deal doesn’t turn into a last-minute nightmare.