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Avoid These 6 Summer Travel Scams

May 16, 2016

Scammers use the confusion and expense of summer travel to their advantage. It is important to understand some of the common scams that target travelers or their families at home. Knowing what to avoid will help keep scammers from spoiling your summer fun.  1.    Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Rental Scams – More and more travelers are skipping hotels and resorts in favor of P2P sites that allow them to rent apartments or houses directly from an owner rather than a rental agent. Criminals are taking advantage of these new services. Make sure you understand the terms of the website you are using. Do they offer any guarantees or refunds? What type of protection do they offer against fraud? Scammers will try to entice you to make transactions outside of the website with deals that are too good to be true. Going outside of the website voids the sites terms and safeguards. Paying for anything via cash, money order or wire transfer offers no protection and makes recovery nearly impossible. Make all payments through trusted sites via your credit or debit card.  2.    Time Share Scams – LegalShield provider law firms have seen an increase in scams involving the resale of timeshares, particularly in Mexico. Beware of companies contacting you on behalf of a buyer offering to purchase your timeshare for a windfall profit. These scammers will pressure you to pay expenses they claim are required for you to close the sale, and then disappear with your money. Again, it is important to be suspicious of anyone asking for payment via wire transfer or money order. 3.    Protect Your Home – Be careful mentioning that you will be away on social networks. Thieves sometimes use that information to target victims who are out of town. Ask the postal service to hold your mail while you are away. You may also notify local law enforcement that you will be away from home. Many police departments have programs that will have an officer drive by your home while you are away.  4.    Front Desk Call – One long running travel scam is the phony front desk call. The scammer will call your hotel room pretending to be from the front desk. They will say there has been a mix up with your credit card and that they need to confirm your payment information. This is a scam to collect your credit card number and other personal information. If someone calls from the front desk do not give out your credit card information over the phone. Go to the front desk in person and speak with a hotel representative directly. 5.    Stranded Traveler – If you are approached or contacted by a stranded traveler with a hard luck story, watch out; they may be part of a scam. Some scammers may even pose as grandchildren or distant relatives abroad and in need of assistance. These scams will come in the form of a telephone call or an email. Scammers will often have an elaborate backstory that involves an urgent need for money. These scams often target the elderly so it is important to discuss them with elderly friends and family. 6.    Wi-Fi Hot Spot Hackers – Airports, hotel lobbies and other high traffic areas are potential locations for Wi-Fi scams. Some scammers may simply ask you to provide a credit card for network access, claiming to charge only a few dollars; they will actually steal your credit card information. Others may download malicious software onto your computer or monitor your activity and passwords. It is important to set your devices to only join trusted networks. If you need to access Wi-Fi ask someone working at the location if they offer Wi-Fi and the exact name of the network. Beware similar names that may be attempting to spoof legitimate services. Never provide credit card information or other access sensitive information via an untrusted or public network.