Be careful! Travel scams to watch out for
You may not have traveled much since the pandemic, so your guard may be down, but even if you’ve been on the road, a reminder is in order: scammers haven’t taken a vacation to try to rip you off while you’re in the middle of a wonderful adventure.
The last thing you need is drama on vacation. While some old fashioned scams still exist, the thieves are smart and keep coming up with new tactics and especially taking advantage of any opportunity created by COVID. Here’s what to watch out for to protect yourself.
fake travel insurance
Many people choose to purchase travel insurance for the first time. “COVID and all its uncertainties are the main reason for this, but extreme weather conditions have also become a big reason. Unfortunately, scammers know that more and more people want travel insurance, and they know exactly what type of coverage they want. Fraudulent travel insurance packages have emerged and people are falling victim to them – they give their money to these scammers and then go on a trip thinking they are protected when they are not at all,” says Kristen Bolig, CEO of SecurityNerd.
She cautions: “When buying travel insurance, be sure to do so through legitimate companies. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, most legitimate travel insurance packages don’t offer direct COVID coverage, so if you find a plan that says so, it’s probably a scam,” Bolig says.
David Adler, founder and CEO of The Travel Secret, says one scam that has emerged during the pandemic is companies trying to sell vaccine IDs or vaccine passports. “Vaccine cards are free so far, so there’s no need to pay for one.”
Not only are you paying for something free, but the transaction can open you up to fraud. “Most scams can be avoided with a few simple steps. You should only make purchases on secure websites. Look for a padlock icon in your browser’s address bar. This indicates that the site is secure. Another way to avoid this is to never give out personal information online,” says Adler.
The great contenders
According to Pauline Manu, head of consumer advocacy at Sitejabber, a National Science Foundation-backed consumer protection site, there is a spike in travel scams.
What stories do they hear? “Scammers create fake websites and emails, impersonating Airbnb, other sites and travel agencies, and target potential travelers. Scammers either provide fake travel accommodations or intercept travel plans and scam people out of more money,” she says.
The best way to avoid phishing scams is to know the red flags in order to avoid them.
“Before you click on the email, is it from a sender you don’t recognize?” Is this an unusual email address? Is it sent to several unknown recipients? If either of those answers is yes, you might not want to open the email,” says Manu.
Airbnb also provides a list of official Airbnb domains, so avoid any other senders, she says.
Manu says to pay close attention to the content of the email. “Are they claiming that there is suspicious activity or there is a problem with your account, and you never registered with them or you don’t recognize the email domain? Is there bad grammar and bad messaging? Does it give you a booking link to an unknown website or use a misleading domain name? If so, send the email directly to spam!
When someone has logged visits to over 40 countries, they know a thing or two about travel. Becky Moore is the founder of the GlobalGrasshopper blog. In all her years of travel, she has seen things. Now she warns that there are scammers pretending to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and asking for personal information like social security numbers. Another, she says, is that people are being offered false opportunities to be evacuated from pandemic-hit areas, such as Italy when it was in crisis, at significant cost. Then there were scammers pretending to belong to the World Health Organization or other legitimate organizations and asking for money to help fight the pandemic. Finally, she adds that some people offer bogus discounted flights or hotels, but then demand payment up front and never deliver.
Know the rules of the mask
Tyler Rice, founder of Camp Van Life, an online community for nomads living in vans, motorhomes and other vehicles, says one of the most common scams he has seen emerge in countries developing is being “fined” for not wearing a mask in your vehicle. “Local police will target vehicles occupied by several tourists and stop them for not wearing masks inside the vehicle – which is not a problem for locals. It’s just an easy way for the local police to shake off tourists and get some extra money in their pockets,” says Rice.
His advice? “Check local mask laws. Wear a mask inside a vehicle in some developing countries that are popular with tourists and only put small bills in your wallet with your main money somewhere safer. In the end, just opening your wallet and only having $5 to give away is far better than opening your wallet and a local cop seeing you have $40 to give up.
Nothing like a free meal
Beware of “free hotel” bookings. “As everyone is so excited to travel, scammers use free hotel booking as a way to phish people’s information. They offer this but ask the ‘winner’ to give their personal details and use them to access his personal accounts and perform his illegal transactions,” says Anton Radchenko, founder of AirAdvisor, a resource for passengers seeking compensation for flight disruptions.
Scammers capitalize on trends
A growing number of scam sites are targeting travelers seeking expedited screening through airport security, through services such as TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Fake versions of these sites charge travelers an “application fee” or “service fee” and by the time they are done, the scammers will have obtained not only the victim’s credit card information, but also the number. passport and social security, warns Lynette Owens, global director of internet security at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.
With car rental prices up 30% over the same period last year, consumers are looking for bargains. “Typically, we see scammers rushing to take advantage of demand by creating deceptive online advertisements that direct potential customers to a hotline where a ‘representative’ will ask for the victim’s credit card information or offer a ” special offer “.in exchange for a gift card or prepaid debit card,” says Owens.
The rise of Airbnb and Vrbo is making consumers increasingly comfortable booking vacation rentals on secondary marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. However, says Owens, “We see scammers using fake listings to rent out properties that don’t actually exist.”
In the end, go out and have fun, but keep your eyes peeled and your head in the game.