Whether you live in the Bay Area and want to escape San Francisco’s infamous drizzly summer, or your neighborhood gets so hot in July and August that you want to visit cooler pastures, summer is the perfect time to travel!
Traveling is a great way to broaden your horizons and relax, but it also comes with risks. In 2016, hundreds of travel/vacation scams were reported to BBB Scam Tracker by consumers nationwide. More than 2,000 sweepstakes/prize scams were also reported, and many involved winning “free” airfare, lodging, or cruises.
You want to gain memories during your summer vacation, not lose money! Consider the following tips for a successful and stress-free vacation:
- Avoid scams. If you receive an unsolicited email or call claiming you’ve won a free trip, it’s probably a scam. You’ll never have to pay to receive a free prize. Avoid click-bait ads for cheap vacations. These may lead you to fraudulent websites that will try to steal your personal or financial information. It’s also important to watch out for fake rentals when trying to find a place to stay. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit then avoid contact with renters, who may be left with nothing but a fake reservation or a rental that doesn’t resemble the photos in the online listing. Only deal with rental companies you can trust – look them up on org first! Learn more at bbb.org/travelscam and bbb.org/rentalscam.
- Do your research when renting a car. In 2016, consumers filed more than 9,500 complaints against auto renting and leasing companies with BBB. The leading causes of complaints were service and billing issues. Make sure to get car rental estimates from a few different companies, and do your homework. Look up companies on org to see their rating, complaint history and reviews from past customers. Decide whether you need to buy additional insurance, and ask if there are any extra fees. You can find a BBB guide for renting a car at go.bbb.org/rentalcar.
- Think about a travel agent. In 2016, consumers nationwide filed around 7,000 complaints against travel agents and bureaus with BBB. Common complaints involve difficulties getting refunds, poor customer service and confusing contracts. Look up businesses at org before making any decisions.
- Be cautious when booking online. More than 2,300 of the complaints that BBB received against travel agents and bureaus in 2016 concerned online travel agencies, so be careful when purchasing a flight or hotel through a third-party booking site. Do your research first and consider using a trustworthy BBB Accredited Business. Double check the URL, look for a secure connection, use a credit card and watch out for too-good-to-be-true deals. Learn more tips for booking a trip through a third-party website here.
- Safety first. Be careful connecting to public Wi-Fi, and never enter personal or financial information while using it. It’s also best to wait to post vacation pictures on social media until you return home, otherwise potential thieves will know your house is empty. Make sure to lock up any valuables in a safe when you’re not in your hotel room. Keep important items, like your passport and wallet, close to your body while out and about, and watch out for pickpockets.
- Cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Be careful and pay attention to details when you make any purchase or sign any contract – before or during your trip! Read the fine print, ask about additional fees and get everything in writing. Before leaving, verify all of your reservations for lodging and activities by calling the hotel or company directly. Print out any confirmation emails and pages and take them with you in case you run in to any issues and don’t have Internet access. Always pay with a credit card, as they offer more protection than debit and prepaid cards, and let your bank know that you’re traveling beforehand.
- Don’t automatically buy travel insurance. In case something goes wrong, travel insurance may be helpful. It’s designed to reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip. However, there are many different types of plans that cover different things. Ask a lot of questions, read the fine print, and do your research on org. According to Consumer Reports, a BBB Accredited Charity, “coverage may be unnecessary if you already have protection through homeowners, auto, life or health insurance… credit-card benefits and consumer-protection laws also may help.”
If you encounter a scam during the course of your vacation, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others!