Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

6 Travel Scams to Avoid

AARP's Fraud Watch team warns you of cons that could ruin your getaway plans

spinner image Airbnb app showing traditional courtyard home for rent in Beijing China
Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

Patricia Frolander, 78, walked into the Rapid City, South Dakota, Regional Airport last year with a ticket to St. George, Utah. She was on her way to visit a dear friend — but never got there. An airline employee broke the bad news: Her $398 ticket was for a nonexistent flight.

"I booked my trip through a travel agency website that looked legitimate,” Frolander says. The only red flag: fine print on Page 5 of her ticket saying she couldn't contest the reservation once purchased. “When my granddaughter checked online, she traced the website to a travel agency with a very bad history with the Better Business Bureau,” Frolander says. Her credit card company investigated and agreed to refund her money.

spinner image Narrow Letter A

Watchdog Alerts

Sign up for biweekly updates on the latest scams.

Get Alerts

Scammers are constantly looking for ways to part people from their money, and, unfortunately, have found lucrative targets among travelers.

Here's how experts say you can avoid six current travel scams.

3 Scams to Avoid as Travel Resumes

1. Free or rock-bottom deals

Phone calls, emails and postcards with enticing travel offers are tempting, but a deal that's way under the value of a trip — like five nights in a hotel plus airfare to Maui for $200 — means it's probably a scam, says Amy Nofziger, AARP's anti-fraud expert.

Avoid this scam: Simply walk away from any deal that seems too good to be true. And if a company asks you to pay with a prepaid gift card instead of a credit card or debit card, it's a scam, Nofziger says. Always work with a trusted travel agency or company that has a long, proven history of offering travel opportunities, she says.

Scam Tracking Map

No matter where you live, fraud is never far away. Report a scam or search for existing scams near you.



2. Rental-car cons

Scammers set up phony customer service numbers online that look just like those of major rental-car companies. When you call, they take your money and personal information, then leave you stranded.

See more Health & Wellness offers >

Avoid this scam: Before you call or click to reserve a car, verify that you're calling the real customer service department, or that you're on a legitimate company website.

3. Third-party websites for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry programs

Look-alike websites are popping up and claiming to be able to help you renew or enroll in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck or the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program, which speed you through airport security for a fee. But these sites are trying to con you out of money and personal information.

Avoid this scam: Travelers interested in enrolling in or renewing TSA PreCheck should start the process by going to the official government website,

4. Disappearing vacation rentals

Scammers capitalize on the popularity of vacation properties rented out on legit sites like Airbnb and Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner) by offering — online or via social media — properties that don't exist, don't belong to them or don't measure up to the gorgeous photos.

Avoid this scam: Keep all of your interactions with a vacation property's owners on the website of legitimate companies. A request to take your conversation off the site is a sign of a likely scam. If a property has few reviews or seems too good to be true, search the address online, or check it on Google Maps.

5. Airport and hotel Wi-Fi hacks

Connecting to public Wi-Fi gives savvy hackers easy access to your personal information.

Avoid this scam: Use your smartphone's hot spot to connect to the internet more securely. Or invest in a virtual private network (VPN), a service that encrypts your data to keep unscrupulous hackers from stealing sensitive information online. A VPN costs about $30 to $100 per year.

6. Tourist visa scams

Popular destinations (Australia, India, Vietnam, for instance) require visas from American visitors, and scammers have stepped in, creating third-party websites promising to get tourists their visas quickly, for a fee. They not only request money to expedite your visa, they request personal information valuable to criminals for identity theft. Some travelers who’ve used these sites have ended up with a fake visa — or no visa at all.

Avoid this scam: Get your tourist visa directly from the website of your destination country. (You’ll find links at Many countries have turnaround times as short as one day for electronic visas, and some even allow visitors to procure them upon arrival at the airport or border crossing.

Sari Harrar is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to AARP publications.

Sari Harrar is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to AARP publications.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

Scam Tracking Map

No matter where you live, fraud is never far away. Report a scam or search for existing scams near you.