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Holiday Hacks! How To Avoid Travel Booking Scams

The Christmas and New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest travel times of the year. And visiting friends and family is the single biggest reason Americans travel during the holidays.

Visits account for 43 percent of long-distance trips during Christmas and New Year’s, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

With millions turning to the internet every season to book their holiday getaway, fraudulent websites and apps have ripped people off more now than ever before. Additionally, banks, airlines, and car rental firms have become increasingly creative when it comes to hidden fees and sneaky tricks designed to rip off travelers.

We’ve highlighted some of the most common travel scams below – and how to avoid them:

Booking Scams

Last year consumers made 55 million bookings through websites they thought belonged to a hotel – but later realized was actually a rogue third-party operator. That’s more than triple the number of fraudulent bookings reported in 2015!

Online hotel booking scams are on the rise, warns the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The most common scams involve fraudsters setting up bogus accommodation websites, hacking into legitimate accounts and posting fake adverts online.

The damage to consumers: Nearly $4 billion in misleading bookings.

“When it comes to travel scams and other high-end, high-cost scams, you’re more likely to have the scammer reach out to you,” says Katherine Hutt, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau.

How To Fight Back

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any deal that looks too tempting – such as a bargain price for a luxury property in a popular destination during the peak period – and thoroughly check out any travel agent you use.

Additionally, don’t make a hotel reservation directly through its website.

According to Panda Security, hotels often neglect their networks’ online security, especially if it’s privately owned. This past summer, 14 Trump Hotels were hit by a data breach that exposed guests’ cardholder names, account numbers, payment card expiration dates and possibly security codes. The Hard Rock Cafe & Casino franchise was also impacted by a breach from August 10, 2016 to March 9, 2017.

It’s advised to make a reservation through a verified third-party site, which will often provide perks like free cancellations and breakfast.

If using Airbnb or a similar rentals website, make payments only through the website’s payment system. Be wary of a host asking you to make a bank transfer to them to save on fees – this can be a huge red flag of a fraudulent listing and you could lose your money and your vacation.

Budget Airlines Fees

Low-cost airlines have long been criticized for hidden costs – and are constantly dreaming up ways to lighten travelers’ wallets. One strategy include separating families who do not fork out extra for seat reservations.

Research by travel comparison website Kayak has found that some airlines even charge more for reserving a seat than the cost of the flight.

How To Fight Back

Pay for fares in the local currency if you are abroad, check in and print your boarding pass at home, only take carry-on luggage whenever possible, be happy to sit anywhere on the plane – even apart from family – and take a packed lunch.

Airport Extras

Just getting to the departure gate can cost you money at some airports. Airport parking is exorbitant if you pay on the day.

Parking for a single day costs $30 at LAX airport and a whopping $35 at JFK airport.

How To Fight Back

Book parking in advance to save up to 60 percent. Take suitcases with wheels or easy-to-carry backpacks. If you live close enough to the airport, use an Uber or Lyft if you can’t get a ride from a friend. The costs could add up big time.

Cyber Thieves

Approximately 15 million hotel booking scams take place each year, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

How To Fight Back

Use credit cards to make reservations and book vacations. Most credit card providers offer protection against cyber thieves. Don’t trust services that require payments made with debit cards, checks or wire transfers.

Avoid Deals On Untrustworthy Websites

When you’re comparing prices online for that perfect present – don’t get too excited by a deal that isn’t on a site that you know and trust.

Try and shop from sites you have used before and look for signs of a secure page such as the padlock symbol. At the very least – check out reviews to be sure that the site is genuinely going to supply the goods once you’ve handed over your cash.

Hope these tips help and thanks for being part of the TAI Community!

– Dutch

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