Vacation Scams to Avoid

Vacation Scams to Avoid

(Image: File)
(Image: Thinkstock)

Online travel sites can be a great way to get a deal. However, they also provide an opportunity for a scammer to take you for a ride.

Here are three scams all travelers should be aware of this Fourth of July and during the upcoming travel season.

1. You get a notice that you won a “free” vacation. As soon as you hear someone is about to give you something free of charge, you should be on your guard. The promise of a getaway at no cost to you may have hidden charges or be difficult to redeem.

The North Carolina Department of Justice reports that some consumers have received calls or emails claiming they won an all-expenses-paid cruise or free airline tickets. Then they are told they must go to a travel presentation in order to claim the gift. What unsuspecting consumers don’t know is that they are about to be bombarded with a high-pressure sales pitch to shell out serious cash on a travel club membership.

“You either wind up having to pay fees before you can claim your “free” trip, or the trip is so difficult to redeem that you’re forced to give up on it,” says the North Carolina Department of Justice. Do yourself a favor and stay away from free vacation offers.

2. You receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming he or she can quickly sell your timeshare. Fraudsters have been using the dip in the economy as an opportunity to prey on timeshare owners who are desperate to sell. Another vulnerable population, elderly homeowners, has also been targeted.

This is how it works: property owners receive a phone call from a fake timeshare-resale service claiming they can help resell the property. The owner is convinced to pay high up-front fees after they’re told a buyer is ready to purchase the property. However, in reality, there is no buyer. Even worse, once the property owner discovers it was all a scam, he or she can’t get the money back.

Homes that are most often targeted are usually condos in popular vacation spots that have high maintenance costs and are hard to resell. Always ask if the reseller’s agents are licensed to sell real estate where your timeshare is located. If they are, check this information with the state’s Real Estate Commission. Only do business with licensed real estate brokers and agents and ask for references from clients.