Vacation scams can cost you any time of year

Consumer Reports

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Just because summer is nearly over doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when it comes to vacation scams. Whether it’s the sale of bogus time shares or vacation clubs, prize-related vacation fraud, or anything else, don’t be sucked in by the promise of free or low-cost holiday trips. Unless you heed the warning signs, you could end up wasting your money.

One scam that’s been circulating recently is the posting of bogus vacation home rental ads, including photos of real homes, on Craigslist and other online classified advertising sites. Those who respond are asked to pay a deposit, only to find out later that the advertised property doesn’t exist, has been misrepresented, or isn’t available for rent.

That’s just one of the fraudulent practices the National Consumers League mentions in its list of vacation and travel scams.

For more examples of common financial ripoffs, read "Beware of These Scams."

Recently, consumer officials in Hawaii, Maine, and other states also posted a list of six signs that a phone call, text, email, letter, or in-person offer is actually a travel scam.

  • Someone contacts you unexpectedly.
  • You get a “robocall” from someone using an automatic dialer, a common—and illegal—method scammers employ.
  • You’re told you've won a free vacation or air travel but that you have to first pay some fees.
  • You’re asked for your credit card number “just for verification” or to pay taxes or port fees.
  • You can’t get specifics on the promised travel arrangements.
  • You’re pressed into signing up right away for a travel club or any other travel-related service or you’ll lose the opportunity.

Last year, we wrote about the dangers of vacation clubs, citing many online complaints and a lawsuit New Jersey filed against a company that it said collected hundreds or thousands of dollars in membership fees and then failed to deliver the deep discounts, vacation accommodations, and other travel services it had promised.

—Anthony Giorgianni

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