Traveling over the holidays? 5 scams the BBB says you should watch for

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FILE – In this Monday, May 17, 2021 file photo, a passenger of a flight arriving at Faro leaves the airport, outside Faro, in Portugal’s southern Algarve region. For Europe’s battered tourism industry, fresh virus outbreaks and chaos and confusion over travel rules are contributing to another cruel summer. (AP Photo/Ana Brigida, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As people prepare to travel for the holidays, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning about travel scams. It says before the pandemic brought travel to a halt, during the 2019 holiday season, Americans lost nearly half a million dollars in travel scams from October to December.

“As travelers solidify their plans and contact rental locations, travel agencies or hotels, BBB wants to caution Texas residents to be careful when interacting with anyone who uses aggressive sales tactics or promotes a deal that seems too good to be true,” said Vice President of Communications Heather Massey of BBB serving the Heart of Texas.

The BBB says its best to book and schedule your travel plans as far in advance as possible to avoid ending up in a pinch, and not giving you time to investigate a company and potential travel deals.

The BBB says the most common travel scams are as follows:

  • Vacation rental scam: Look for red flags like the “owner” creating a false sense of urgency, saying another vacationer is interested in the rental. It’s best to book with a reputable rental housing website.
  • “Free” vacation scams: When a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is actually free. Watch out for add-on fees.
  • Hotel scams: When staying in a hotel, watch out for scammers who obtain credit card information by pretending to call from the front desk, hacking into “free” wi-fi connections and pretending to be room service or a fake food delivery service.
  • Third-party booking site scams: If you book parts of your trip through a third-party website, make sure you do your research. BBB Scam Tracker continues to receive reports of scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers. In the most common version of the scam, travelers pay with a credit card and, shortly after making the payment, receive a call from the company asking to verify name, address, banking information or other personal details – something a legitimate company would never do.
  • Timeshare reselling cons: A timeshare owner looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in timeshare resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target into paying an upfront fee. The timeshare owner pays up, but the reselling agent never delivers.

The BBB says the best way to make sure you’re not falling victim to scams is to get get trip details in writing, watch out for deals that are too good to be true, don’t wire money or use a prepaid debit card, call the rental owner and make sure you’re speaking with the person who truly owns the property and be weary of unsolicited offers.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a travel scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

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