If you’re getting ready for a summer vacation, one of the most important things you can do to prepare is to make sure you’re scam-proof.
Around 64% of leisure travelers are expected to take summer vacations this year, according to AAA. That means there are a lot of people taking care of flight plans, lodging, excursions, car rentals and the like right now.
But when it comes to protecting their assets — and their vacation experiences — from scammers, many of us are woefully asleep at the wheel!
In this article, we’re going to go over some common travel scams to make sure your getaway doesn’t go off the rails.
Common travel scams — and how to avoid them
Scam artists are creative people, but some cons happen so often that they’re being detected more and more.
Here are some of the most common summer vacation scams and how to avoid them:
Never pay for ‘prize’ vacations
Be leery of signing up for those high-pressure timeshare meetings that ask for money for a “prize” of some kind.
How to avoid: Here’s what the Federal Trade Commission says about this: “No legitimate company will ask you to pay for a prize. Also, look for catches to resort or timeshare offers.”
Look out for fake hotel booking sites
Fake booking sites dupe countless numbers of people every year.
How to avoid: Look at the URL to see if it matches the name of the company. Research the business before you book. Remember, Google is your friend.
Beware ‘broken’ taxi meters
The old broken taxi meter trick is rare, but it still happens from time to time, usually in foreign countries. Unfortunately, relatively few tourists are keen enough to stop it.
How to avoid: Ask the driver for the estimated price of your trip beforehand — and ask if the meter is working. If it’s not, find another ride.
Be wary of ‘friendly’ picture-takers
At some point during your trip, a stranger may offer to take a couples shot or group photo of you in front of a monument or landmark. Most of these people mean well, but sometimes after the photo is taken (or even before), they’re gone with your camera!
How to avoid: Be careful about handing over your camera or phone to strangers, but more importantly, feel comfortable enough to ask someone to take your picture, rather than let someone approach you and offer. They may have been scouting you out the whole time.
Some crooks hang out in heavily populated tourists spots just so they can steal high-dollar cameras and sell them. Remember, be discerning: Don’t just ask the person closest to you!
Don’t forget: A credit card is friend when booking a vacation
Money expert Clark Howard says that you should always book flights, hotels and rental cars with a credit card instead of a debit card, since credit cards offer way more consumer protections if something happens.