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Stay Safe From Summer Travel Scams

Summer is just around the corner, which has many of us looking forward to fun adventures and sunny escapes. But beware – criminals could be lurking on the other end of that enticing travel deal.

Here’s what to know to help avoid travel scams.

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How It Works

  • You stumble onto a travel booking site that offers exclusive vacation deals, often for far below market value.
  • You find a posting for a luxurious vacation rental listing at a lower-than-expected price.
  • Your rental car search lands you on what appears to be the jackpot – a site offering fantastic deals.
  • You’re using a popular vacation rental app, and the host asks you to pay upfront and through a means that is off the platform.

What You Should Know

  • Criminals create bogus travel sites that mimic legitimate ones and often appear toward the top of your search because they’ve bought paid promotions.
  • Scammers also use fake vacation rental listings that are often stolen from real listings and then altered. An unusually low price could be a sign that a listing is not legitimate.
  • Shady rental car sites may look like those of real companies, but the deals are fake. The thieves who set them up will simply take your money and then disappear.
  • A host who asks you to pay for your rental home outside of the app is not someone you want to do business with.

What You Should Do

  • Be skeptical of any pitch that offers steep discounts on travel and accommodations.
  • Vet travel reservation sites before you book. Conduct a web search on the company name (along with the word “scam” or “complaint” or “review”) to read about other people’s experiences.
  • When renting a car online, type in the web address versus using a search engine. This will reduce the chance of accidentally landing on a look-alike site.
  • Pay for travel reservations and bookings with a credit card, which offers greater protection than other forms of payment.
  • When using a vacation rental app, be suspicious if the host wants you to pay off-platform. For example, Airbnb only allows this for certain fees (such as local taxes), and VRBO states that payments outside its checkout form are not eligible for its “Book with Confidence” guarantee.

Support for Fraud Victims: The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers AARP VOA ReST, a free program that provides emotional support for people affected by fraud. Hour-long ReST sessions are confidential small-group meetings that are held online and led by trained peer facilitators. Experiencing a scam can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to define you. Interested? Visit aarp.org/fraudsupport to learn more.

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Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.