Fake vacation websites hope to trick you into forking over your hard-earned money

With the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions and positive cases increasing throughout the country, travelers continue to lose money when it comes to vacation scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly $80 million in losses have been reported by consumers in vacation and travel scams since January 2020.

One way that travelers are losing money involves copycat websites where scammers make it appear they are with legitimate airlines or vacation rental sites.

"Sometimes this might come through targeted ads on social media that are fake and are leading you to a fake website," said Yoav Keren, CEO of BrandShield, a company that works with legitimate businesses to expose and stop fake websites. "Many of them will, of course, want to steal your money so take your credit card, take your credentials. Some would infiltrate your computer."

Keren said that this time of year, scammers step up their efforts to target consumers.

"What we see is a spike around Labor Day of all kinds of online fraud, phishing impersonation to airlines, hotels or other travel websites," Keren said.

So far, Keren said his company has stopped several fraudulent travel sites.



"We detect them, we analyze them, and we take them down, so we help these companies, protect their consumers against these fraudulent activities online, and to stop them," he said.

Keren said one red flag to watch out for is if someone reaches out to you through private messaging on social media and offers you a good deal for travel or hotel or airline tickets, it's a scam.

To protect your money when booking any kind of travel, don't pay any money until you read the fine print. If you're not booking directly with the airline or hotel, use extreme caution when booking through a third-party travel website. Make sure you take a look at the cancellation policy to see whether the trip is refundable.

It's also wise to consider trip insurance during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Make sure you read the policy to check whether it's a cancel-for-any-reason policy, especially if you have any COVID-19-related concerns.

And always pay with a credit card for extra protection.
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