A recent TripAdvisor study shows that more than two-thirds of Americans plan to take a trip this summer — and identity thieves are taking note.
With vaccines now widely available, people are hitting the road — and getting hit with car rental scams, bogus airfare bookings, and phony travel sites designed to capture their money and personal information.
Over the last year, fraud has risen to record heights, particularly in the tourism industry. Americans have lost almost $75 million to vacation and travel fraud since the pandemic began. In June, two U.S. senators introduced a bi-partisan bill, the Protecting Consumers from Travel Fraud Act, that aims to address the problem. If it passes, the legislation would require the Federal Trade Commission to do more to protect consumers from travel-themed scams.
In the meanwhile, if you’re going somewhere, you can take steps to up your defenses. Read on to learn more about today’s common travel scams and how to avoid them — plus how we support our members anytime fraud occurs.
Be alert while booking
If you’re planning a trip, it’s helpful to adopt a healthy skepticism.
Whether you’re booking directly with a hotel or airline or using a third-party broker, look for companies that have familiar brand names and plenty of positive online reviews. When in doubt, consider using the Better Business Bureau’s database to check for any red flags before making a purchase.
Still, a recognizable brand name doesn’t guarantee that a booking site is safe. Criminals can use reputable third parties to advertise rentals that don’t exist or aren’t available. Before making a commitment, consider doing some internet sleuthing — such as checking the address on Google maps — to confirm that all the details add up.
Be on the lookout for phishing campaigns, too. These phony emails and landing pages can appear to come from well-known travel companies, but they’re actually fakes designed to capture your money or credentials.
Before sharing financial or personal information online, make sure the site seems legit and begins with “https”. The “s” stands for secure and means collected information will be encrypted. Other hallmarks of phishing include typos, blurry logos or images, and misleading URLs. Before clicking, hover over a link to see its true destination.
Learn the signs of common travel scams
Sometimes, a hot deal is a bad sign.
Be wary of any offer promising rock-bottom prices for luxury accommodations. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not sure, try checking the market to see if the offer is in line with other similar inventory. If it’s not, consider moving on, or at least dig a little deeper to find out why.
Any request to send money through a wire transfer should also raise a red flag.
Wiring money is like giving someone cash. Once the money is gone, it’s very difficult to get back — which is why wire transfers are a preferred payment method for scammers. Booking travel with a credit card, rather than a debit card, is usually the safest bet.
In addition, be on the lookout for:
- Urgent requests: Scammers pressure you to “act now!” because they want to take your money before you find them out.
- Unexpected calls from travel companies: If you get an incoming call from a travel firm, don’t give away sensitive details over the phone, even if you have a relationship with the company. It could be a scammer on the other end. Hang up, look up the company’s official number, and call back before conducting business.
- Robocalls or texts offering travel deals: Legitimate businesses shouldn’t contact you this way.
- Timeshares or vacation clubs with hidden fees: Before signing up, understand exactly what you’re getting and what it costs.
- Timeshare resale scams: If you own a timeshare and you’re trying to sell, beware of third-party services that offer to take your money up front in exchange for finding a buyer. In this common scam, the criminals take your money, but the buyer never materializes.
Take care while traveling
Once you’re en route, you’re at a heightened risk of identity theft.
Anytime you use public Wi-Fi or shared devices, there’s a chance criminals can access your information. While traveling, consider using a VPN, or save sensitive transactions, like logging into financial accounts, for home. While hotel business centers are convenient, public computers can be infected with malware designed to capture your information, so it’s best to avoid those, too.
Social media shares can also put you at risk when you’re on the road.
If criminals know where you are and what you’re doing, that knowledge can power highly targeted spear phishing attacks. Plus, by posting about your vacation in real time, you’re essentially advertising the fact that you’re not at home, and that your assets — like your house or car — may be easy targets for thieves in the physical world.
Your devices and credit cards may also be more vulnerable when you travel. Leave unnecessary tech at home, and make sure all hardware is password protected. In addition, consider using a RFID-blocking wallet to prevent skimmers from using radio frequency identification technology to swipe your card number.
Protect your identity, protect your vacation
The truth is that even the best habits won’t completely safeguard you from fraud — and nobody wants to spend their vacation dealing with identity theft.
If you have Allstate Identity Protection, our near real-time alerts help you spot threats to your identity so you can take quick action to minimize your risk. A few taps is all it takes to let us know if an action made in your name — like, say, opening a new line of credit — isn’t legit.
If you do experience fraud while traveling — or anytime, for that matter – we’ve got you covered. Our U.S.-based remediation specialists will work with third parties — like law enforcement, credit bureaus, and financial institutions — to restore your credit, identity, and financial health. Plus, we cover many of the out-of-pocket expenses that might arise during recovery.
With us working on your behalf, you’re free to enjoy more of your vacation — and your life — without worrying about your identity. What’s more relaxing than that?