Many people purchase airline tickets, hotel rooms, and even entire vacation packages online these days. Scammers know this and there has been a rise in fraudulent travel sites selling fake tickets and non-existent vacations. Travel is usually a big-ticket item, which spells big bucks for criminals. Additionally, travel is a tricky purchase because you typically pay large amounts of money up front for something that you won’t see until the date of travel.
This type of scam can be particularly problematic because you may not find out you’ve been scammed until you arrive at your destination or the airport. There may be no record of you having a booking at all. Now you’re out the original money and also might have to come up with more to continue on your vacation, or simply pack up and go home.
Free or discounted vacation
These scams may be initiated via phone or email, but typically the target is told that they have won a vacation. In order to claim, they either have to pay a small fee (advanced fee scam) or provide credit card details for a deposit. In the former case, the thief takes off with the money. In the latter, the credit card details can be used in credit card fraud.
Vacation ticket re-sell scam
In this case, someone posts an ad claiming that they have purchased a ticket for a trip they can no longer go on. They then sell the (fake) tickets for a much lower price than their face value. Some victims don’t realize the scam until they show up at the airport ready for the trip. With insurance company agencies making it so difficult to get refunds on tickets, the fact that someone might be selling tickets online is made more believable, fuelling the success of the scam.
In a points scam, the target is called or emailed and informed that they have won a huge number of points, through a travel points card program or a travel credit card points scheme. All they have to do is provide some details to confirm the transaction. This may include account information, credit card details, or other personal information.
The vacation rental scam involves fraudsters posting ads for property in desirable locations for bargain prices. The victim is required to send a deposit or the full amount up front.
Once they arrive at their destination, they may realize the property doesn’t exist, it has been misrepresented, or it isn’t actually available for rent.