Travel has always been an area where consumers should be wary of promises, offers that are too-good-to-be-true, and “once in-a-lifetime opportunities”.
Unsolicited offers, high-pressure sales pitches and a requirement that you act quickly or lose the opportunity can be signs of a scam.
This type of scam frequently targets seniors, who tend to have the time and financial resources to travel frequently, and immigrants, who often travel to visit family in their home countries.
Common types of travel scams:
Vacation rental – These scams typically crop up on online classified sites like Craigslist.com. The victim will search for an apartment or home for rent in a desirable destination and find an attractive rental at a very low price. The victim contacts the “renter” (who is in reality a scam artist) who then requests a “deposit” on the rental. Typically it is requested that the deposit be sent via wire transfer. When the victim arrives at the property she finds that it either does not exist, that the condition has been misrepresented, or that it was never available for rent. Efforts to get back the deposit fail. Scammers typically use images from a real property (often taken from real estate sites) to make their scams seem legitimate.
Timeshare rental and purchase - Victims are lured to a high-pressure sales pitch (sometimes at the timeshare resort itself) with promises of a high-value “free” gift, such as a car, RV, or cruise package. To obtain the gift advertised, the victim must pay a “fee” for delivery or processing. When the gift arrives (if it ever does), it is typically of much lesser value than what was originally promised.
Fraudulent Timeshares – The victim receives a package in the mail or via email detailing a timeshare for sale. If the victim invests, they later find that the timeshare does not exist, the timeshare company has “gone out of business,” or otherwise is unable to return the deposit paid.
Airfare Scams – Victims are promised deeply discounted airfares. Once the purchase is made, the victim receives no confirmation or a counterfeit confirmation e-mail or paper ticket. Another way this can happen is the victim purchases the ticket and is then told that their credit card purchase has been declined. A wire transfer is requested which results in no ticket and no way to recover the funds.
Fraudulent Vacation Packages –A deeply discounted vacation package is advertised at a luxurious resort or cruise. Upon arrival, however, the consumer finds that the quality of the hotel and services has been seriously misrepresented and there are often additional fees that must be paid to take advantage of the “great deal.” Efforts to recover deposits are generally unsuccessful.
Travel Agencies – These scams can include a promise of “affordable” airfares and prepaid tickets that don’t exist; offers to train you on how to open a home-based travel agency that will allow you to purchase discounted travel and accommodations, when in fact, you do not receive the proper credentials and never receive the promised discounts; offers of prepaid travel certificates for luxurious vacations at discounted prices that then require substantial fees to redeem; and travel agencies that call themselves "full-service travel agency" and offer prepaid packages sponsored by well-known hotel chains and airlines at discounted rates to promote tourism. But the well-known companies have never heard of the travel firm, and consumers cannot get promised refunds.