« Return to Blog

Travel Scams: Don’t let your dream vacation turn into a nightmare.

in Protecting Your Identity
travel scam

The number of Americans traveling internationally this year is expected to be higher than it was before the pandemic. That’s good news for tourists, who can find some great deals, and for businesses catering to their needs, many of whom are still recovering from the financial hits they took during the past four years. It’s also great news for scammers and thieves, who unfortunately are finding new ways to rob you out of your money online or straight out of your pocket. Don’t let your dream vacation turn into a nightmare – take precautions at every step of the journey, from the initial planning to checking your credit card and account statements once you return home.

We travel to enjoy ourselves, have new experiences, and make lasting memories. We spend a lot of time and money to make it happen, but all it takes is one bad encounter to ruin an entire trip. With a bit of awareness and some proactive steps, you can protect yourself and ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. Below is a brief guide on how to identify common travel scams, prevent getting scammed during the planning phase, and safeguard against frauds and scams while on vacation.

Before You Book: Avoiding Fraudulent Travel Operators

Verify the Credibility of Travel Agencies and Websites: Before making any bookings, ensure that the travel agency or website is legitimate. Look for reviews on independent platforms like TripAdvisor or Google Reviews. Check the company’s contact information; a legitimate business should have a physical address and a verifiable phone number. If a business looks questionable, it probably is.

In the same vein, beware of the Too-Good-to-Be-True Deal. Extremely low prices can be a red flag for a scam. Scammers often use attractive deals to lure unsuspecting travelers into paying for trips that never materialize.

Use Secure Payment Methods: Always use a credit card for bookings. Credit cards offer better fraud protection compared to other payment methods. Never transfer money directly to someone’s personal bank account, use unsecured payment methods like wire transfers, or make payments using apps like Apple Pay, Zelle or Venmo to people or businesses with whom you don’t have any experience.

Check for Professional Affiliations: Legitimate travel operators often have affiliations with professional organizations like the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) or the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Membership in these bodies adds a layer of credibility but do some additional research to make sure these companies are legitimate if you’ve never heard of them before (it’s always wise to ask friends and family members for referrals).

During the Planning Phase: Safeguarding Your Trip

Get Everything in Writing: Always ask for confirmations and receipts to be sent to you via email or postal service. Having detailed records of your bookings and payments can protect you in case something goes wrong.

Research Your Destination Thoroughly: Understand common scams that occur at your destination. Distinct locations may have unique scams, such as fake entry fees to attractions or rigged taxi meters. Travel Advisor, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves are all useful sources for this information. Check the State Department website for travel alerts and security warnings before you go.

Plan Your Airport Transfers: Arrange your transfers from the airport to your accommodations through reputable services. Unsuspecting tourists often get scammed by unauthorized taxi drivers who overcharge or take longer routes. Find out what the going rate for a transfer or ride is before you get in the taxi, car, or van.

While on Vacation: Staying Vigilant

Be Cautious with Free Wi-Fi: Avoid accessing sensitive information or making transactions over public Wi-Fi networks. Scammers can set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots to steal personal data. Use multi-factor authentication on your devices.  In the event of loss or theft, your device is not accessible.

Keep Your Belongings Secure: Use hotel safes or secure luggage locks. Tourists are often targeted for theft, including sophisticated scams that involve distraction techniques, sympathy ploys, or quick-moving mobs. You can use devices such as Apple Air Tags™ or Samsung Smart Tags™ on luggage and purses and even on your children in case you are separated.  Create a family “code” that is a safe word to avoid strangers attempting to lure a family member away from a group.

Verify Before You Buy: If purchasing tours or tickets from local vendors, verify their authenticity. Ask your hotel for recommendations or check online reviews.

Know the Local Laws and Customs: Being aware of the local laws and customs can prevent you from falling into ‘legal’ scams where tourists are falsely accused and fined.

Do not post your travel plans on social media or allow others to either.  Thieves troll social media pages for vacant properties.  Your vacation is an open invitation for a robber.  Have your neighbor collect any packages that get delivered and pause your mail during your trip.  You can share your adventures upon your return, including photos.

Post-Vacation: Recognizing Post-Trip Scams

Monitor Your Bank Statements: After your trip, keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized charges for at least one cycle. Scammers sometimes wait to make fraudulent charges.

Report Any Scams: If you believe you’ve been scammed, report it to the local authorities, as well as your travel insurance company (if you have travel coverage). This not only helps you potentially recoup losses, but also assists in preventing future scams.

Two websites offer particularly valuable advice on this subject from different vantage points: the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice page has great tips for avoiding scams when booking a trip, making reservations online, and dealing with official documents, while the legendary travel guru Rick Steves has a comprehensive list of what you need to watch out for once you’ve arrived at your destination. Both should be required reading for tourists of all experience levels. By being informed and cautious, you can enjoy your vacation without the added stress of falling victim to travel scams. Remember, vigilance is your best companion on any trip!

Lafayette Federal is Committed to Our Members’ Financial Well-being

At Lafayette Federal, we know that the rise of scams puts more and more people at risk of financial fraud every day. We care about our members’ online and financial safety, and our team members are trained to help you spot potential scams or abuse that could harm your financial wellbeing.

If you have concerns about a potential scam or believe you may be a victim to one, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Come into a branch or learn more about protecting your identity online at Lafayette Federal.

Not a Lafayette Federal member yet? You can become a member by completing an online membership application.