Watch out for these red flags when booking your summer travel

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With COVID-19 restrictions going away for many popular tourist destinations, it's expected to be a busy summer travel season. That can also mean the return of vacation nightmares.

Fake copycat airline sites along with bogus vacation rental listings are just a few of the ways scammers are tricking travelers. Adam Levin a cybersecurity expert says, "We had one case where somebody showed up, and it was a vacant piece of land, which was a little bit disturbing."

Before putting any money down for your next vacation do your research, especially be on guard for fake rental listings on Airbnb or VRBO.

"If the listing photo has a multiple listing service watermark -- MLS watermark -- that means that the scammer could have simply taken a picture from a multiple listing of a property that's for sale, and made it part of a fake ad for a rental," Levin said.

Take the online photo listing of the vacation rental and do a reverse google image search to see if it shows up anywhere else.

Remember, scammers are quick to capitalize on opportunities like the generosity of people who want to help Ukraine refugees. Some people decided to book Airbnbs and then allow refugees to stay in them, but scammers also saw this as an opportunity to create fake rental listings to get your money.

"See how long the listing has been up. In particular, listings that had been on long before the conflict began. If you see a series of listings that suddenly popped up, some may well be legitimate, and some may not be legitimate," Levin said.

Another red flag is if the person who has the rental asks you to pay off Airbnb.

"The golden rule is as long as you are making that booking through Airbnb and you're paying through Airbnb, we're protecting your money," Ben Breit with Airbnb said.

When it comes to vacation and travel fraud, in the last two years, people reported nearly $90 million in losses to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those losses are with fake travel websites. Alyssa Parker with the BBB of Eastern North Carolina says, "Make sure that it has HTTPS and it has that lock right there it shows you it's a secure website."

Besides fake travel websites, Parker suggests reading that fine print when it comes to too good to be true deals. Look for added fees and exclusions that could cost you when it's time to travel.

Before booking your next vacation, do as much research as you can. Read the reviews to see the history of the travel website, and always make sure you're dealing with the actual airline, hotel, or car rental place, and not a copycat website that makes it appear legitimate.
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