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That Last-Minute Spring Break Deal Might Be a Scam

Just like the groundhog says, winter isn’t going away anytime soon. That has many of us looking for a warm getaway this spring, but beware. Scammers could be lurking at the other end of that sweetheart spring break deal.

How It Works

  • You stumble onto a travel booking site that offers exclusive vacation deals, often 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 great prices.
  • You’re using a popular vacation rental app, and the host asks you to pay up front and through a means that is off the platform.

What You Should Know

  • Scammers create bogus travel sites that often appear high in search rankings because they paid for promotion. These sites often use the same language, colors and logos as legitimate sites.

  • Criminals create fake vacation rental listings that are often stolen from real listings and 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 take your money, then disappear.

  • A host who asks you to pay for your rental home outside 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.

  • Pay for travel reservations and bookings with a credit card, which offers greater protections than other forms of payment.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Knowledge gives you power over scams. The AARP Fraud Watch Network equips you with reliable, up-to-date insights and connects you to our free fraud helpline (877-908-3360) so you can better protect yourself and your loved ones. We advocate at the state, federal and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws. 

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 to learn more.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.