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It’s supposed to be the most magical part of the year. The holidays are a time for getting together with loved ones and making memories, but nothing can ruin your holidays like falling victim to a travel scam.
Vacation and travel scams are the second most reported scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with nearly $81.20 million in losses reported from January 2020 to October 2021 alone.
This holiday, watch out for these popular travel scams, and share them around the dinner table with friends and family. You might just save a loved one’s holiday.
Planning Your Trip: Lodging and Transportation Scams
- Fake Vacation Listings. There’s nothing worse than showing up to your destination to find out the house or hotel you thought you booked doesn’t exist or is already full. Always book your vacation directly through an official hotel or home rental website. Working with a travel agent, like the ones at AAA Travel, can also help you avoid travel scams.
- Fraudulent Airline Tickets. Flights can be more expensive this time of year, and you may be tempted to search flight tracker websites for a cheaper price. Be cautious of prices that seem too good to be true. There are many travel scams that happen through fake websites — some even with “customer service” representatives. It’s a good idea to book directly through the airline website and double check that there’s an “https://” in front of the website address.
- “Free” Vacations. You’ve likely received a number of calls and emails offering you a “free” or cheap vacation. When a travel or cruise company advertises a vacation as “free,” there may still be a catch — think fees or travel date restrictions. At other times, the caller may make you pay a fee to hold your date or spot. Never give an unknown caller your personal information or put money down on a trip of any kind without getting the details in writing first, and always read the fine print. Look out for things like add-on fees for air transportation, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees before saying “yes” or thinking you’re getting a truly free vacation.
During Your Trip: Hotel Scams
- “Front desk” calls. When staying in a hotel, beware of scammers who use various techniques to get personal information — like your credit card or Social Security Number — by posing as someone from the front desk. As a hotel guest, you may get a phone call from someone pretending to work at the hotel’s front desk claiming there’s a problem with the credit card on file and asking for a new one. The scammer will try to get your credit card information over the phone, but an actual hotel staff member should never ask for your credit card information over the phone. If someone calls from the “front desk,” make sure you go down to the lobby in person to verify the call came from them before providing the information they’re requesting. Never give out personal information to “hotel staff” over the phone. Notify the hotel management right away if the call didn’t come from the actual front desk.
- Fake food delivery. Some scammers go so far as leaving fake restaurant menus at the front desk and in hotel rooms. A relaxing night ordering in could put your credit or debit card number at risk if you call one of these fake restaurants and give them your payment card details. Before ordering food from a restaurant outside of your hotel, make sure you check online or ask the front desk whether it’s a legitimate place.
- “Free” Wi-Fi connections. While complimentary wireless internet often comes with your hotel stay, it can also open you up to wireless internet “skimming,” a common travel scam that targets travelers with the promise of free internet access. Hackers can create a network with a name that makes it look like your hotel’s complimentary guest Wi-Fi, and let you access the web without a password. Once you connect to their network, they’re able to see what you do online, from the websites you visit to passwords you enter or even credit card information if you’re online shopping. Before connecting to any hotel Wi-Fi connection, check with the front desk staff that you’re on the hotel’s network. If you want to be extra safe, consider using your phone as a wireless hotspot (many mobile carriers and smart phones support this function).
After Your Trip: Do Your Due Diligence
- Check your debit and credit card statements. Even if you were being cautious during your travels, your personal information, debit and credit card numbers, and passwords could have been compromised — and you might not even know! When you return from your trip, make sure to cross reference your receipts and charges against what you spent and flag any suspicious spending to your banks. If you see a charge you did not make, contact your credit card company or bank right away to report the charge. Your financial institution may offer to lock your card(s) and send you a replacement to avoid any more unexpected charges. You may also consider updating your email and other account passwords after your trip, especially if you were on public Wi-Fi networks.
- Review your credit report. It’s also a good idea to run your credit reports and look for anything new or unexpected. A scammer could have opened a new account in your name. Pulling your complete credit report will show you what accounts are open, when they were opened, and the account balances. If you don’t recognize something in there, contact the bank to verify the account information.
Scammers will be looking for ways to trick unwitting victims this holiday season, but AAA Identity Champion will be here to help you stay one step ahead, and to help you get things sorted if someone manages to steal your identity anyway.
All of our plans come with internet and dark web monitoring to spot any compromised personal information that should not be out there and to alert you. Our upgraded plans also come with identity theft insurance, hands-on identity restoration agents, and lost wallet assistance. AAA Members can activate our Basic plan at no additional cost, and receive a special discount on upgraded plans.