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BBB Trends: Hitting the road? Watch for these common schemes targeting travelers — happy trip!

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

The summer travel season is here and many people are getting ready or have already left to enjoy a little time off. Unfortunately, there are some common tricks travelers fall for if they’re not careful.

Fake Websites: scammers make billions of dollars taking money from unsuspecting travelers who book online. Then when the person arrives at the destination, sometimes they’ll get scammed again.

Avoid the online booking schemes by using a reliable travel agent, carefully checking the website before booking the trip and reading the fine print listed on the website for restrictions. You can always check out the travel company on bbb.org. Once arriving at your vacation destination, don’t let your guard down! You are now a target of pickpockets and hustlers.

BBB safe travel (BBB photo by Shutterstock)

Distracting Tourists Trick: When sightseeing, crooks distract tourists by dropping a wallet or a piece of jewelry nearby in hopes a kind soul will pick it up. One thief will engage you in conversation, while another thief sneaks behind and takes your wallet. Your best bet is to point out the dropped item and keep going.

Skimming for Information: Families planning a road trip should also be aware when making a fuel stop. Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals — like gas pumps — that grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals sell the stolen data or use it to buy things online.

Skimmers are nothing new, but technology has made them smaller and harder to find. Sometimes, they’re even hidden inside the gas pump’s credit card reader.  Whether you’re out of town on a trip or simply running around the town you’re visiting doing errands, be aware when pulling up to the pump or stopping at the bank to get cash. Signs of tampering include scratches or other damage around locks or doors, components that look different from the rest of the device or from other pumps (such as a skimmer placed over a card reader), a loose card reader, and security tape that is broken or does not adhere to the pump.

If anything looks out of place, report it to the gas station manager and move to another pump. Instead of paying at the pump, pay for the fill-up with the cashier inside. Always keep a close eye on your credit card accounts and if there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

Late Night Fraud Calls: Another common scam is the hotel phone in your room rings in the middle of the night. The caller claims to be from the front desk and wants to confirm your credit card information. You might be half asleep but, if you can remember, tell the caller no, and hang up. Then, go to the front desk and ask if they really need your information again. If there’s no problem, tell them about the call you received.

Pack your bags and have a good trip but be on the lookout for a con artist who just might dampen your good time. Refer to bbb.org for your travel needs.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call 513-421-3015.

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