Nearly $75M lost to vacation scams since start of COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lawmakers are considering legislation in hopes of protecting your money from travel scams.

Since last year, consumers lost nearly $75 million to vacation schemes, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Vacation and travel scams are the second most reported scam to the FTC, with more than 40,000 fraud reports since January of 2020.

With COVID-19 restrictions loosening, travel is rebounding, which means scammers are looking to take advantage of you and swindle away your money.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill proposed new legislation with hopes to deter online travel booking scams. The legislation would require the FTC to update its website with information on how to identify and avoid travel scams.

The Better Business Bureau along with the FTC has issued several warnings about vacation scams involving fake travel and booking agents and also fraudulent copy-cat airline websites.

How you lose money to these scams, according to the BBB, if you have a problem with a flight or trip, when you google the airline or hotel for customer service, instead of getting the actual airline or hotel, you get a representative who claims to be with the company you are trying to reach.

The BBB goes on to say that after explaining the change in travel plans, the representative asks for personal and payment information. Thinking you are dealing with the airline, you pay the fees and only later learn it was all part of a scam.

According to BBB's Scam Tracker Risk Report, travel scams ranked higher in the top riskiest scams and the median dollars lost went up to $1,300 from the previous year.

"Everyone is excited to get out and travel this summer, and the last thing anyone wants is to be deprived of their time, money, and trip by con artists," said Mallory Wojciechowski, president and CEO of BBB serving Eastern NC. "Although properties are booking fast and it's enticing to book at the click of a button, don't skip vetting the site and host because it can save you from issues later on."

When it comes to booking scams one red flag to watch out for is to be aware of too good to be true deals. If a deal seems unrealistically cheap, it is likely a scam.

If booking through a third-party listing site the BBB suggests you research the host. In addition to researching the listing site, you should look for reviews and complaints regarding the property host. Properties can be hosted by an individual, real estate agency, or travel agency.

Also, remember to read the fine print and get all trip details in writing. After booking, be sure to save your confirmation email and/or take a screenshot of your account. This will ensure you have proof of booking if there are any issues closer to your trip.

When it comes time to pay, try and book with a credit card. Paying with a credit card provides additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.

Lastly, consider getting travel insurance.
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