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• Oct 10, 2023


It's a nightmare scenario: you've made all the arrangements for an exciting vacation with your friends or family, only to find out that you're being charged exorbitant fees. Or worse, you discover that the property you thought you'd be relaxing in was all an illusion.

With travel in full swing again, so too are the number of vacation scammers hoping to take advantage. The good news: you can avoid being taken in by knowing some of the tell-tale signs of a fraudster. When you book your next getaway, here's how to make sure you're getting exactly what you expect.

Beware of vacation home rip-offs

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that fraudulent websites steal photos and information from actual rental listings. Others create advertisements that are completely fabricated. You may not find this out until you actually arrive at the destination—and by that time, your money is likely gone.

To save yourself that heartache, only shop on reputable travel sites. Walk away from listings that require you to pay with wire transfers or cryptocurrency. Those payments are much harder to trace, which makes them the favored payment method for scammers.

Book directly from the source

The number of travel-shopping sites is staggering, and some aren't exactly what they seem. In some instances, companies lead travelers to believe they're making reservations directly through the airline or hotel, according to AAA. In reality, they're middle-men who may charge surprise fees or fumble your reservation.

To steer clear of any trouble, call the provider directly or visit their official website. You can even go a step further, verifying your reservation with the airline or hotel prior to your vacation.

The sad fact is that if you book through a third-party, the hotel will not let you know when you arrive if anything is amiss. Most times, you’ll be made aware through the third party, not the hotel or airline, which makes this far less reliable.

Hire a travel agent

Travel sites make it easier than ever to compare flight and car rental options on your own. So, do you really need a travel agent? Surprisingly, the answer may be yes.

These professionals help you steer clear of non-reputable companies and outright scams; they're also your advocate if something goes wrong during the trip. The Better Business Bureau suggests you seek out travel agent referrals from people you trust so you know you're in good hands.

Don't fall for high-pressure tactics

What could be better? You're offered a fantastic vacation package at a surprisingly low price. There's just one catch- you have to reserve your spot today. This is a clear red flag, as scammers use urgency to persuade you to buy without thinking.

As tempting as it can be to snag that one-of-a-kind deal, you should walk away. The truth is, they don't want you to take your time and research the offer because they know it's a trap. Even if you find a package from a company that seems trustworthy, take your time and read the contract carefully.

Use a credit card for payment

Cash, Zelle, and wired bank funds are notoriously hard to track down if they fall into the wrong hands. Even PayPal can and will be tough, especially if you use Friends and Family instead of Goods and Services when checking out.

However, card issuers often provide fraud protection benefits and may be able to reverse the charge if it ends up being bogus.

Watch out for sketchy travel insurance

The next time you book a vacation, you may come across a travel insurance provider offering you Covid-related cancellations or interruptions. The only problem: that perk doesn't exist with most standard policies. For that, you generally need something called "cancel for any reason" coverage. This kind of coverage typically costs about 50% more than a base package, but during uncertain times, that's money well spent. Make sure you're buying it from an established company and be sure to read the fine print.

Avoid travel document scams

If you haven't traveled abroad in a while, you may need to apply for or renew your passport before making the trip. Just make sure you complete your documents on the actual State Department site—not a fake website designed to look like the real thing. The FTC warns that these copycat webpages often charge higher fees or ask you to pay for services that should be free.

For more on personal finance topics

If you have more questions about other personal finance topics that matter to you, visit the Learning Center on TD Bank’s website. You can find out more information about TD Bank's services at td.com

We hope you found this helpful. This article is based on information available in October 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided as a convenience and for general information purposes only. Our content is not intended to provide legal, tax, investment, or financial advice or to indicate that a particular TD Bank or third-party product or service is available or right for you.

For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

Links to third-party sites do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by TD Bank of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

TD Bank bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Any third-party trademarks or service marks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content. See our website Terms of Use for more information.

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