Experts sound warning about travel scams ahead of Labor Day weekend

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With Labor Day bearing down, many are trying to get in one last big vacation or long weekend trip.

Scammers are waiting for them.

As vaccines made it easier for people to travel, they also made it easier for criminals to produce schemes that take people’s money. Many travel scams involve fake websites and deals.

Looking for that perfect vacation getaway often starts online. That’s prime scamming ground for criminals.

The Federal Trade Commission reported $8 million in losses due to travel-related scams since the start of the pandemic.

One way criminals take money is by posing as hotel, rental car, or airline personnel.

“They say your reservation has been modified or canceled, and in order to basically unlock or change your reservation you need to pay a really high fee,” said Jack Caporal, a financial research analyst with Motley Fool.

How do scammers pose as legitimate? They create lookalike sites.

“A common way to talk to airline agents is through a live chat,” said Patricia Ceriauskaite of NordVPN. “Make sure you are actually on the company website and not talking to a dodgy third party.”

Before committing to a website, zero in on certain components in the URL. Look for a padlock icon and make sure it’s an HTTPS address. As opposed to HTTP, HTTPS addresses have a security certificate for making payments.

“This is the one really good and simple way to know it’s a reputable website,” Ceriauskaite said.

Other travel scams also involve nonexistent vacation rentals, free vacations with hidden fees, and phony travel insurance policies.

Ceriauskaite said scammers actually buy ads on the internet to imitate companies.

“Make sure you are buying from a reputable source. And if it’s a smaller company you’re unsure of, research it through the internet,” she said.

Also never pay for any vacation with cash, gift cards, or a wire transfer.

“Scammers don’t want to be traced back,” Ceriauskaite said. “They always push you to use untraceable payment methods.”

Travel scams have one thing in common: criminals will push victims to make a decision fast. One way out is to say, “I need time to think about it. Check with me tomorrow.”

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