PaulMichaelHughes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

PaulMichaelHughes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

With summer around the corner, travelers are preparing trips both domestic and abroad. As you get ready to launch into vacations, scammers prepare to find ever more creative ways to bilk you out of your hard-earned money.

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To help you hold onto your vacation cash, and have the best time when traveling, experts explain scams to look out for when purchasing airline tickets, booking lodging or any other expenditure related to travel.

Be Wary of What’s Too Good To Be True

Scams most often present themselves through an email or a phone call, social media posts or messages, according to Darius Kingsley, managing director and head of consumer banking practices at Chase Bank. “Fraudsters will often try to capture unwitting consumers’ information via too-good-to-be-true travel offers and deals,” he said.

Thus, if something looks or sounds suspicious, or too good to be true, take a moment to reflect and consider its legitimacy. Trust your instincts.

“Rather than engaging with an unexpected and seemingly fishy email, call or social media message, cut off possible scammers right away by hitting delete, not opening links, hanging up or simply ignoring them,” he said.

If you’re still curious about the validity of an offer, look up the source’s website or phone number and review the information directly. Remain vigilant of unsolicited offers or opportunities, he urged.

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Book Through Trusted Sites

For an extra layer of protection, consumers should consider booking their travel through trusted sites, like airlines, hotels and even their bank, Kingsley said.

For example, Chase customers can book travel and take advantage of rewards online and within the mobile app, he said.

Double Check Lodging

One of the more upsetting travel scams is travelers getting scammed out of their vacation rentals, Kingsley said. There’s nothing like an exhausting day of travel only to find you have nowhere to stay and are out a bunch of cash.

“In some cases, fraudsters are posing as rental hosts and taking a booking for a property that doesn’t exist. In other cases, scammers have tried to force consumers to cancel bookings and lose their money,” Kingsley explained.

He added that it’s important to take extra caution when booking rental homes for your trip, and know how to identify a scam.

“Scammers try to mimic or impersonate popular travel websites by recreating familiar branding, logos or company verbiage. When booking a rental home for a vacation, always pay through the service’s official website. Keep all your communication with the host contained within the booking site or app, so you have a full record, and the booking company can help if needed. Always book with a credit card in case a dispute arises.”

Do Scam Checks

Kingsley urged that travelers do scam checks by looking up unfamiliar retail, travel and services sites online by searching for their names along with terms like “scam,” “complaints” or “reviews.” Other people who’ve been taken by them will often post complaints and bad reviews.

Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi

Another way to keep your vacation money safe is to avoid making transactions over public Wi-Fi to keep your personal information secure, said Jeremy Albelda, a travel writer with

Public Wi-Fi is often unsecured, meaning it’s easier for hackers to steal your personal info, including passwords, and spy on you through it.

“If you’re ever in doubt, consult official tourism websites or use a trusted travel agent to make your arrangements,” Albelda said.

Check Credentials

To protect your vacation budget, you should always book through reputable agencies with verified credentials, according to Ricky Gomulka, founder and managing partner at JetLevel.

“Check for Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation and memberships in professional organizations like the NBAA or IS-BAO. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and never wire money or use unsecured payment methods. Research reviews and confirm reservations directly with service providers. Lastly, use credit cards for added fraud protection.”

Purchase Whole Trip Insurance

Travelers looking to protect their trip investments should purchase whole-trip travel insurance — rather than medical only or luggage only — to make sure their trip protection can cover their flights, hotels, prepaid activities, health emergencies and more, according to Lauren Gumport, vice president of communications and brand at Faye Travel Insurance.

“Also, more modern travel insurance providers that launched following the COVID-19 [pandemic]… provide 24/7 assistance, not just for emergencies. They provide concierge services, as well, including where to dine, what the best tours are to take and even where the nearest pharmacies are,” she explained.

Insurance May Not Cover Scams

Even with trip insurance, however, Gumport warned that most travel insurance policies typically don’t cover scams, such as fake rental properties, “meaning your travel insurance policy can cover you when it comes to trip cancellations, trip delays, missed flight connections and medical emergencies, but if you get scammed, sadly, you may end up eating that cost. Keep that in mind when booking accommodation, and make sure the place you want to book has dozens of reviews before paying.”

That said, it also depends on the platform you used to reserve your stay, she explained. “I once arrived to the Airbnb I booked, and the host never showed. Airbnb asked me to wait an hour to see if he responded, and once he didn’t, they reimbursed my booking and covered 150% of two nights in a hotel nearby on the remote Greek island I was staying on.”

Avoid Overcharges

Getting overcharged for a taxi is one of the most popular travel scams out there and can lead to travelers paying twice as much as usual, or even more, for the same ride, according to Mercedes Zach, travel expert at ASAPTickets, part of Trevolution Group.

“That is especially common around airports and hotels with large tourist crowds. To avoid that, make sure that you confirm the price for your distance with the taxi driver beforehand and ask them to put the meter on. If the driver refuses to do that, just leave and look for another car,” Zach urged.

When in doubt, ask your hotel staff to call a cab for you, or better yet, use a trusted taxi app such as Uber, Lyft or Bolt that will tell you the exact price and take the money off your credit card without having to deal with the driver directly, she said. Also, always make sure to only ride in authorized cabs.

Don’t Accept Free Gifts

Another popular travel scam, which is especially common in Europe, is giving away “free” bracelets, Zach shared.

“A friendly vendor approaches travelers for a chat and then places a bracelet around their wrist just to ask for money or a ‘donation’ right after that. If you refuse to pay, they will start making a scene so that you get embarrassed and give them the money after all.”

Her main piece of advice is to avoid accepting anything for free at all. “If anyone puts something on you, simply take it off, give it back to them and just quickly walk away.

“The same goes for an injured person or a child asking for money. In most cases, they do it for the local gangs, who collect the funds right after you leave. If you want to help a local, offer to buy them food instead, or donate money to a charity instead of giving it to fake beggars.”

Don’t Get Wrong Change

Giving you the wrong change is another travel scam to be wary of, Zach said.

“That can happen in many countries where the local bills look similar. Sellers will try to give you less money, hoping that you won’t notice. To avoid that, always pay attention to the color and amount of each bill that you are given, count the total of your change or use your credit card instead whenever possible.”

Don’t Accept Local Exchange

Also, in busy cities where there are a lot of currency exchange points near popular tourist attractions, locals might come up to you and offer to change some money for a great rate and no commission, Zach said. “Don’t fall for this scam, as usually some of the notes in the stack end up being fake. Therefore, it’s always best to only go to reputable currency exchange shops instead.”

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This article originally appeared on Avoiding Travel Scams: How To Protect Your Vacation Budget

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