Many consumers flee to warm weather destinations during the winter months. But while you’re working on your tan, scammers are working to steal your money. We’ve collected information on some of the more common vacation scams to watch out for if you escape the cold this season.
Fake Booking Sites: Consumers looking to rent a property from an online site need to watch out for scam sites. Some scammers create fake rental properties or hack the accounts of legitimate renters. They offer deals at a can’t beat price. All you need to do is wire money to a bank account and the home is yours for a dream vacation.
- Avoid this scam by double and triple-checking the site and the destination. Look for reviews; search the address on the internet and see if it is commonly associated with a scam; call the property owner, if possible, or a company representative and confirm the property is legitimate and available. Pay by credit card and be suspicious if you are asked to wire money. Scammers prefer wire transfers because they are fast. By the time you realize you’ve been scammed, the thief already has your money and you can’t get it back.
Front Desk Scam: Scammers will often call a hotel guest’s room, usually late at night, and pretend to be calling from the front desk. They’ll tell you there was a problem with your credit card or that they need to confirm the card number. The confused guest then recites their card information and the thief hangs up to go make some purchases.
- Avoid this scam by hanging up. It’s highly unlikely that a hotel employee would ever wake a guest in the middle of the night except in the event of an emergency. If you’re concerned there may be a problem with your card, walk down and ask the front desk.
Taxi Meter Scam: Some unscrupulous drivers will drive tourists on unnecessarily longer routes to increase their fare, counting on your ignorance of the destination and how long the drive should take. Another version of this scam has the taxi driver telling you the meter is broken and they charge a significantly higher price than is normal.
- Avoid this scam by always using a licensed taxi. Check for some sort of license or registration number so you can file a complaint if necessary. Be sure to confirm that the meter is in good-working order before accepting a ride and double check the route on your smartphone’s map or ahead of time using the internet. If you think you’re being taken for a ride, ask the driver to let you out in a safe, well-populated area.
Fake Take-Out Menu Scam: Scammers aren’t afraid to spend a few dollars to make something look believable if it’ll pay off in the end. That’s how this scam works. A glossy menu is slipped under your hotel room door with pages of options and delicious looking food. You call the number, give your order, provide your credit card information, and are told to expect delivery in 20-30 minutes. But, you guessed it, your food never comes and you just gave a thief your financial information.
- Avoid this scam by researching the so-called restaurant. Is there a website? Customer reviews? Has the front desk ever heard of it or know where it’s located? If not, be suspicious. Consider paying cash for delivery take-out or go and pick it up yourself. If they only allow payment by credit card, order elsewhere.
Sadly, thieves will use any opportunity possible to steal your cash, your belongings, or your personal information. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but remember to stay vigilant. And be sure to report any scams to the hotel, the local Consumer Affairs office or Attorney General’s office, and the police.
If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.
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