Travel booking scams emerge as the summer vacation season approaches

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Consumers eager to travel again could be victimized

From all indications, the 2021 vacation season will be a busy one as millions of newly-vaccinated Americans who were cooped up at home for months book travel.

But in the search for the best fare and hotel rate, consumers should be careful when booking and paying for trips. Scammers have reportedly launched fake booking sites, and some of these bogus sites are showing up in search engines.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports its Scam Tracker website has begun to receive accounts from angry consumers ripped off after they thought they had booked a vacation. In at least one case, criminals have created a website that appears to sell airline tickets.

The flights are real, but the prices aren’t. Attracted by what appears to be a great deal, consumers enter their credit card information and receive a confirmation message. A closer look, however, shows there is no ticket attached.

Different twist

Some consumers have reported a slightly different twist. After booking a flight on the bogus travel site they get a call from “customer service” saying there has been a price increase on the flight and they have to pay more. That should be a red flag since a legitimate company would not do that.

In many cases, the consumers who purchased tickets through one of these sites called the airline directly only to learn the carrier had no record of their reservation or payment.

The lesson for travelers is clear: be careful when booking a trip and make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate entity. There are several ways to do that.

What to do

First, if you’re booking through a third-party site like Priceline or Expedia, make sure it’s a company that is familiar to you. Better still, book through a company you have used in the past with good results.

When in doubt, check the company out on ConsumerAffairs. Our reviews are verified to make sure they are real. You’ll find thousands of reviews of the top travel sites here.

Look closely at the website’s URL before entering personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. 

Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork, too.

When booking travel, use your credit card and not your debit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed and losses are limited by law.

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