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3 Top Tips to Avoiding Sneaky Travel Scams — So You Can Enjoy Your Summer Vacation

Outsmart the fraudsters.


The last thing you want to encounter while making your summer vacation plans is a scammer. But unfortunately, they’re getting sneakier and harder to detect. Luckily, there are ways to avoid losing your hard-earned money to these tricky hoaxes. Our experts share easy ways to sidestep the latest frauds — from bogus Airbnb listings to cruise-line cons — so you can get away worry-free.

Outsmart Vacation Home Hoaxes

There’s been a spike in rental home scams on sites like Craigslist and Airbnb, but knowing what to look for can help you avoid them. “If the rental is much cheaper than others in the area or if they are asking for money up front, before allowing you to see or verify the property, that’s a red flag,” says realtor Joy Aumann. Another warning sign: listings with a lack of interior shots. This can mean a scammer took a photo of someone else’s home from the street.

Also smart: Be wary when booking campsites, says Liz Ho of “I was almost fooled by a website offering low rates on RV sites, until I read complaints from others who had fallen victim to it. Now I only book from the campgrounds directly.”

Beware of Rental Car Claims

Imagine arriving at your destination and discovering the car you reserved and prepaid for doesn’t exist. That’s what happened to travel pro Anne Grant of “The third-party website looked professional, so I booked a Hertz car via their site — but when I showed up, there was no record of my reservation.” The site turned out to be fake. To protect yourself, she urges checking that the site has a physical address and phone number. And if booking a car with a major rental company, call that company to confirm.

Also smart: Check that the rental car company has a secure payment method — credit card, PayPal or Apple Pay — and not wire transfer or direct deposit.

Spot Cruise Fakes Easily

Scammers are calling people to tell them they “won” a “free” cruise, says Elaine Warren, author of The Family Cruise Companion (Buy from Amazon, $6.95). They then ask for credit card details to “cover taxes or port fees,” and hit you with fraudulent charges. If you didn’t actively sign up to win a free cruise, and if you’re asked to pay anything up front, just hang up.

Also smart: Avoid “traffic scams” targeting cruise travelers who rent day vehicles like mopeds when at port. Scammers posing as police will “ticket” tourists, knowing they’re in a rush to get back to the ship and will likely pay without hesitation. To avoid this scam, stick to excursions where transportation is provided by the cruise line.

More 2023 Scammer Cons and How To Steer Clear

Question QR code offers. Criminals have long been putting up ads with QR codes that claim to take you to a legit website, but once scanned, direct you to a fake site that steals your information. The newest trick: They call or text you that you won a free gift card, then message you with a QR code to download. Avoid scanning a code unless you know it’s from a trusted source.

Avoid puppy grifts. Fraudsters post purebred puppies for sale online, ask for cash up front, then disappear. “Look into the breeder before sending money and ask for references,” says veterinarian Ellen Russell. And if you can’t meet the pup before adopting, ask to do a video call.

Sidestep fake job offers. Scams targeting people seeking remote work have been on the rise. The con is aimed at stealing your financial information. Just be wary if the “hiring manager” asks for payment or your Social Security number up front.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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