Protect Yourself from Vacation Scams

June 1, 2017 | Christina

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Luggage                                                        Photo credit:  Max Pixel

Summer is quickly approaching and many people are starting to plan vacations with their families and friends.  The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides advice on how to identify and protect yourself from various vacation scams.  Here are a couple of the identified scams:

Free or "Discounted" Vacation Scams

This scam involves fraudulent offers of discounted or free vacations that use company names like Air Canada, WestJet, Transat and others.  Usually, an automated cold call advises a person that he/she has won a destination vacation.  Alternatively, the person may be told that he/she is a preferred customer and that he/she has been awarded a credit or discount on a destination if he/she books immediately.  When the person proceeds with the call, they will be asked to provide personal information to book the vacation and a credit card number to make a deposit/payment in order to guarantee the trip.

Warning Signs of Free or "Discounted" Vacation Scams

  • An unknown caller tells you that you've won a contest you didn't enter.
  • You receive a call advising you that you've won a free vacation but have to provide a credit card number to cover taxes before receiving the vacation.
  • Ask for the caller's name and for a call back number.  If they will not provide one, this is a red flag.
  • Never give out personal information or credit card information over the phone. 

Vacation Rental Scams

Fraudsters in this scam post a destination property for rent online using common websites such as Kijiji and Craigslist.  The potential victim searches for a rental property, i.e. an apartment or a home, in a desired destination.  Ads posted online by fraudsters list a "considerably lower rental cost".  When the potential victim contacts the "renter", the fraudster will ask for a "deposit" on the rental.  According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, it is typically requested that the deposit be sent via wire transfer.  When the potential victim arrives at the desired destination, it is then that they realize it was a scam; i.e. the rental doesn't exist, the condition has been misrepresented, or the property was never available for rent.

Warning Signs of Vacation Rental Scams

  • The ad doesn't provide the exact address of the rental and the same property is listed several times with different contact people. 
  • Payment is requested via wire transfer, money order or cashier's cheque. Credit cards are not accepted. 
  • If possible, ask to see the property before you pay for it. If not, verify the property exists.
  • Do research on the rental property, landlord, etc. If a phone number is not provided, ask for one. 

For information on other vacation scams (ticket re-sell scams, points scams and time share scams), visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's web page on Vacation Scams.  If a victim, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre provides a list of organizations to contact in order to report the scam.

Travel guides may also offer advice on how to avoid scams while on vacation. Here is a specific book at the Toronto Public Library that offers advice:

                                                Travel Advisory!  
  Travel Advisory!  

In this book, travel experts Bambi Vincent and Bob Arno give you the inside look at today's con games, credit card scams, distraction schemes and identity thefts plaguing unaware travelers everywhere.

For more titles on this topic, search the Toronto Public Library catalogue with the subject Travel - Safety measures.