Protecting yourself against travel scams should be your number one priority this summer.

Summertime is just around the corner, which means more than a few of us will be using our well-deserved vacation time. But according to the e-commerce fraud prevention firm Forter, we need to be particularly cautious this season (and we’re not talking about the jellyfish). According to Forter, travel fraud rose 16 percent in 2017. (Travel fraud comes in multiple forms and can be triggered at any point during your travel experience, from booking the airline tickets to reserving a hotel room.) If you’re not too sure what travel fraud entails, let us break it down for you. Here are four travel scams experts at Experian say adventures should be wary of this season.

1. Third-Party Discounts

Unfortunately, scammers know there’s nothing more alluring than the sweet, sweet sound of a discount. Third-party firms that offer “instant” travel discounts should be avoided at all costs. These companies are designed to convince wanderlust consumers into sharing their debit card or credit card information without providing the too-good-to-be-true services as promised.

2. Freebies

If you see a “free” vacation offer, run the other way. Fraudulent “free” travel deals promise customers they’ll have the time of their lives at a gorgeous locale with no mention of resorts, hotels, or airlines. If you’re thinking about an offer like this one, be sure to read the fine print and check the listing companies’ track records on Trip Advisor. (A quick Better Business Bureau [BBB] search couldn’t hurt, either.)

3. Booking Sharks

Some travel services will try to pressure vacationers into closing a deal well before their travel date. Travel agencies that use this tactic are trying to trick customers into booking their stay with a credit card. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there is a 60-day limit on credit card disputes, so by the time consumers realize they’ve been scammed, it’s too late to get their money back.

4. Rental Fraud

Airbnb changed the vacation rental game forever. Now, scammers are trying to get a piece of the pie, too. Schemers will often pretend to be the owner of an amazing apartment or vacation home and ask for the renters’ down payment immediately, only to lead the happy vacationer to a rundown residence or property that is owned by someone else. The upside? Airbnb (and a variety of other online rental companies) now offer built-in protection against rental fraud scams. Airbnb, for example, doesn’t release a renter’s payment to the homeowner until 24 hours after check-in.
If you’re still unsure of how to spot a travel scam, don’t worry. The FTC offers a detailed information guide designed to help travelers avoid travel scams. The website also provides a complaint form for vacationers who feel like they’ve already been ripped off to report travel scams or travel fraud. As a rule of thumb, read the fine print. (Yes, even if it is ridiculously long.) And remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This article was originally written for Our Community Now -- Washington, D.C., by Tabitha Britt.

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