- When planning a trip, if you suspect that something sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.
- Website issues, like grammatical mistakes or non-secure URLs, could be an indication that the company you are looking to book with might be fraudulent.
- There’s no reason that a legitimate company wouldn’t accept a credit card as a payment, so watch out for the insistence of alternative payment methods, like cash or gift cards, too.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Although sometimes a trip might seem legitimate, there are certain signs it could be a travel scam and measures you can take to protect yourself.
These are the 11 major things to look out for before you pack your bags.
The website is full of errors.
The Better Business Bureau warns that travel websites shouldn’t be full of errors. Even legitimate companies make mistakes, but “due to the fact that many scams originate outside of the United States, and the creators of the websites are using online translators,” an abundance of grammatical or spelling errors can be a red flag.
If you’re looking at a translated website in a foreign language that may have irregular grammar through your translation, look at the links and images. If the images haven’t been sized correctly or the logo looks copied, it could be a fake.
None of the website’s social media links work.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) also suggests checking the website’s social media links. “Often times scam artists will link to facebook.com instead of facebook.com/TheirCompanyName,” according to the BBB, so click to make sure they work.
If you’re in doubt whether the company is real or the deal is real, avoid it.
They demand payment more than 60 days before your trip.
Most of the time, you won’t be required to pay in full for a trip more than 60 days before your departure date. One of the reasons that a scammer may require you to pay so far out is that if you want to dispute a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you need to do it within 60 days of receiving your bill.
As more and more travelers turn to credit card disputes to get refunds or avoid scams, be very careful if a deal requires you to pay that far in advance.
They accept wire transfers or gift cards.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, other ways that scammers typically try to ask for money are through wire transfers, putting money on a gift card, or putting money on a cash reload card.
If someone asks you to load money onto an iTunes gift card as a method of payment, they are probably scamming you.
The trip reviews look fake.
If you decide to look up a company’s reviews and they only have glowing reviews and terrible reviews, they could be faking the glowing ones.
Sift through reviews on TripAdvisor and double check the company with the Better Business Bureau. MarketWatch also has some great advice about ways to tell if reviews are faked, including checking the grammar and looking to see if the person has left other reviews or not.
They want payment outside of the website where you found the booking.
Scammers on Airbnb may upload fake photos and then convince travelers to pay them outside of the Airbnb website or app. The Airbnb host may make it seem like the website is having an issue or they have a special situation that demands payment before check-in to try to scam you.
There aren’t any photos.
Leading up to the disastrous Fyre Festival, guests still couldn’t see photos of their lodgings or the beach when they were on their way. Only drawings were available on the website, and the real conditions turned out to be less than luxe.
If you can’t find photos of the hotel, lodgings, or cruise ship in advance, that should be a red flag.
If you’re booking last-minute, double check your reservation repeatedly.
According to travel fraud research with Sift, day-of hotel reservations are 4.3 times more likely to be fraudulent than bookings for any other day in the future.
If you are doing some last-minute booking, make doubly sure that it’s real by calling the hotel or airline to make sure your reservation went through.
The rates are a little too competitive.
If the price for a flight and hotel to France in July is half as much as it is on every other website, that could be the sign of a scam.
Real discounted deals may only be available during the off-season or as a packaged deal. When in doubt, try to book or confirm the deal directly with the hotel or airline, if possible.
The booking site’s URL isn’t secure.
Money.com’s research on hotel booking scams found that secure sites will have different URL’s than non-secure sites: “Legitimate hotel sites generally will begin with the characters “https://” – with the “s” denoting a secure site – rather than just “http://,”.”
It’s simply too good to be true.
If your weeklong vacation to Orlando, Florida, right next to Disney also includes a three-day stay on a beach in the Bahamas for 75% off the retail rate with food and a bonus gift, it probably doesn’t exist.
When in doubt, call the company or travel agent you’re booking through or else go to the Better Business Bureau to see if anyone else has flagged any complaints.