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With spring break on the horizon, many families are already planning trips to get away. But remember, travel and vacation scams are common, especially this time of year when consumers are planning vacations for school breaks and summer vacation.

Scammers will usually take advantage of consumers by posting listings for vacation properties that either aren’t for rent, don’t exist or are significantly different than pictured.

Better Business Bureau recently released the 2017 BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, which included travel and vacation scams as one of the top riskiest scams of 2017. Last year, travel and vacation scams were No. 12 and this year, it moved up the list to No. 8.

In the report, BBB spotlights scammers who impersonate organizations. This is important to note since impersonation is a very common tactic used by travel and vacation scammers. In 2017, Mariott and TripAdvisor were two of the top legitimate organizations used for impersonation. Victims reported nearly 150 scams where scammers used these well-known brand names. This includes Orlando, Florida, Disney Vacations, Mexico and the Bahamas.

In 2017, Idahoans reported about 40 travel and vacation scams. In addition to looking out for impersonations of a trusted brand, BBB recommends consumers follow these tips to avoid falling victim to scams:

  • Use a website or company you can trust. Take the time to investigate every detail. Make sure to do your research and review business profiles and read customer reviews when picking out rentals or hotels. Check out travel agencies or search the Accredited Business Directory at bbb.org/northwest.
  • Don’t be fooled by a good “back story.” Scammers who target individuals in high-value scams can be very skilled at making up plausible and charming fake identities. This includes using a credible brand name.
  • Be wary of vacation packages and deals. If a package is priced well below the typical value, this should raise a red flag. Lottery/Sweepstakes scams are also very common. Watch out for phone calls, social media ads or emails telling you, “Congratulations! You have won a trip!” These are schemes to get your personal information or a couple of hundred dollars, rather than giving you a free vacation.
  • Get details in writing. Confirm any reservations, costs, flights, hotel or rental reservations, cancellation policies or any other trip details in writing. This way you’ll have all your bases covered.
  • Always pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card adds additional protection if you are scammed. Other payments such as wiring money and pre-paid cards are harder to track, and most of the time it’s impossible to get your money back.

If you are a victim of a travel and vacation scam, BBB recommends reporting your experience to the BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.

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