RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)–As we move toward a more normal summer, many of us are anxious to take the vacation we didn’t get last year, but  scammers are out there waiting to turn your ideal vacation into a nightmare. 

Fake vacation sites proliferate this time of year because criminals take advantage of the fact many of want to get away, and they’ll target us with what seem to be great deals at ridiculously low prices. “They’re creative, sophisticated and very persistent,” said Cybersecurity expert Adam Levin. 

Among the most common travel scams according to the Federal Trade Commission are:  

  • Vacation Rentals that don’t exist 
  • Free vacations that contain hidden fees 
  • Phony travel insurance policies 

If you are looking for a vacation package or property–stay with what you know. 

“Go to well traveled, well vetted sites whenever you are renting properties,” said Levin. 

Phony vacation sites are a huge problem. The Better Business Bureau says it found nearly half of all rental property listings were fake with more than 5 million people losing money to vacation rental scams since 2020. 

It says the  average victim lost $3,200 to travel scams last year. 

Scammers will use the internet, as well as cold calls and even text messages to trick you. 

“They want to get you excited to use them to arrange for your trip and then get you to enter your credit card data,” said Levin. “They then will call you to confirm your personal information, so they get a two-fer.” 

Scammers will often steal pictures of real vacation homes from the internet and re-post them under phony addresses. 

Levin says there are ways to discover if the photo is being posted by the real owner of the property, but you must do some research. 

“There are public records that will indicate who the owner of the property is,” he said.  

You can access those records online. 

You can also do a reverse image search of the vacation rental photo and look for duplicates online. 

“If it shows up under different addresses as opposed to the same address, you have problems,” Levin said. “It’s one of those things to be worried about, so stay away.” 

Because scammers also create look-alike vacation websites make sure it has these items in the URL: a padlock icon and an “S” at the end of HTTP. These indicate it’s a secure website that has a SSL certificate. 

Unsolicited vacation offerings via internet are another danger. 

“If someone asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, do not do it,” he said. 

Those links can open your devices to malware or theft of all your personal information. 

Another thing to do is check online reviews.  

If someone has been defrauded, they’ll likely scream about it in an  online review, giving you fair warning to stay away from that property or internet site.