Summer 2024: Travel scams and safety tips

May 28, 2024 | Anne Purcell

With summer travel kicking off with Memorial Day weekend, 118 million Americans plan on taking some type of summer vacation. While summer vacations are fun and relaxing, it is also a good idea to not let your guard down too much. Summer vacation scams, both while planning the trip and during the trip, are common. According to cybersecurity company McAfee, 1 out of 4 Americans traveling this summer will fall victim to a travel scam.

Don't let the thought of travel scams steer you away from planning or enjoying your vacation. Instead, educate yourself on the signs of common summer travel scams to watch out for. Here are some of the most common travel scams and tips on how to stay safe this summer.

Booking vacation stays and flight scams

When searching for your vacation, be sure to use reliable websites. Scammers will create fake booking sites or mimic trusted ones for short-term vacation stays. These scammers often advertise cheap stays and then ask for a deposit when you try to book with them. Once you make the deposit, the scammers disappear. The scammers may ask for payment through a wire transfer or a gift card. If they do, this is a sign that the site you are using is illegitimate and that you should stop booking the trip immediately.

This doesn't just occur with booking stays, but flights as well. If you find a great flight deal online, be wary. Similar to booking a stay, scammers will mimic airline booking sites to try and trick someone, or even try to sell airline tickets that were bought from a hacked or stolen credit card.

Suspicious emails

From "too good to be true" emails advertising a trip of a lifetime, to emails alerting you of something that went wrong with your booking payment or reservation, always be suspicious of the communication that lands in your inbox. Some of these scams will look genuine, but always check the source of the emails and advertisements to ensure their legitimacy. Look for common phishing red flags such as the misspelling of words, grammar mistakes, sense of urgency, suspicious links, requests for personal information and odd email addresses. If a link looks at all suspicious, do not click on it.

Remember that once you book on a reliable site, you will receive a confirmation email alerting you that your payment was accepted and your booking confirmed. If you do receive a suspicious email later asking for more information or saying that a payment did not go through, be wary. Instead of providing the requested information right away, double-check that the email is legitimate by contacting the hotel or booking company you booked with directly by phone to confirm whether the email you received is legitimate.

Public wi-fi and charging stations

It is difficult to go without a phone or Wi-Fi while traveling. While you might think using airport or restaurant Wi-Fi to check your bank account or move money around is okay, these networks are insecure and, therefore, make you an easy target for hackers to access your information. Instead, wait until you are in a secure place and either use your phone's hotspot or a VPN to do any type of banking.

Public charging stations are another place where your information can be vulnerable. Hackers can install malware to access your device and steal your data. Instead, purchase a portable charger before traveling in case you need to charge your phone on the go.

ATM safety tips

ATMs are a common way to withdraw money, especially if you are an Alliant member. While traveling, be vigilant when taking money out of an ATM. Here are some tips on how to stay protected at ATMs when traveling:

  • Always shield your PIN when using it at an ATM
  • Don't share your PIN
  • Use an unobvious PIN, not your birthday or something easily guessable
  • Be aware of your surroundings when inserting your PIN
  • Keep your receipt
  • Report suspicious activity

Summer is a great time to take a vacation, but staying aware of travel scams is always a good idea. If you think you've been a scam victim, always contact your bank or credit card issuer, secure your online accounts, contact the police and the Federal Trade Commission.

Read more on Alliant fraud prevention and security:

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