• May 8, 2023
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 5 read

Don’t Let Travel Scams Sour Your Vacation

From opening a credit card with travel perks to comparing vacation rentals, you may do several things to save money on travel. But what do you do to protect your wallet? Use this guide to familiarize yourself with some common travel scams as well as steps to avoid them. By taking the time to learn about these tactics, you can ensure your trip remains fun and relaxing.   

5 travel scams to avoid 

1. Fake vacation homes

You’ve been scouring vacation home listings for days and finally found one for a great price with all the amenities you want. The price is almost too good to be true – and it might be! Scammers steal photos from real listings and create their own to scam you out of money. You may not even realize you’ve been tricked until you arrive and find someone else is already staying there. Other times, the place you viewed online may have never even existed in that location. Either way, you’re out a significant amount of money and a place to stay. 

Always check the host’s profile and reviews. If there are virtually no reviews, it may be a fake listing. As well, there may be signs when you contact the host. If they ask to move communication off the app you’re using, take this as a red flag and look elsewhere for accommodations.  

2. Fraudulent TSA PreCheck® programs

Many travelers lean on TSA PreCheck®, a Trusted Traveler program, to get through airport security faster. Unfortunately, bad actors love to take advantage of good things and use them for their own personal gain. They may try to reach you by email – a cyberattack known as phishing – over the phone, or in person to get you to purchase a fake TSA PreCheck® membership. 

If you do accidentally enroll in a fraudulent TSA PreCheck program, the Transportation Security Administration advises you to file a report through the Federal Trade Commission’s website. The TSA will not offer any monetary assistance and instead suggests contacting your bank or credit card company for a possible refund. 

There are often signs that can help you avoid this scam. For example, the scammer may use an email address spelled slightly differently from a legitimate one. Or, they may offer a TSA PreCheck membership for a cost that’s different than what’s listed on the TSA’s website

3. International document scams

If you’re traveling internationally you may be trying to get all of your documents squared away, like a travel visa, passport, or other document. Scammers have been known to create copycat government sites and charge an exorbitant about for these documents. Often, the same services are free on the actual U.S. Department of State’s website. Always ensure you’re using travel.state.gov when researching and gathering the necessary documents. 

4. Credit card fraud

Don’t come back from a nice, relaxing vacation only to realize there’s suspicious activity on your credit card. While traveling in itself won’t necessarily make you more susceptible to this type of fraud, you may be a little checked out from your finances and less likely to notice it in a timely manner. 

Time is of the essence when you fall victim to credit card fraud, and the best way to spot it quickly is by using Online Banking or your financial institution’s mobile app. This way, you can check your accounts at your fingertips in seconds. If you notice a transaction you don’t remember making, you can report it immediately

  • Did you know all General Electric Credit Union (GECU) credit cards come with zero liability protection so you’re never on the hook for a charge you didn’t authorize, online or otherwise?1 Enjoy this and no annual or foreign transaction fees when you bring our Visa Signature® on your next trip.2-3

5. Public Wi-Fi traps

Public Wi-Fi is a convenient way to access the internet and use apps on your device. Unfortunately, some hackers us man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks to intercept your data while you’re connected to these networks. 

There are a few ways to protect yourself from this while seeing all the sights on your trip. The first is to use your own personal hotspot if one is available to you. Another is to make sure all the sites you’re accessing while on public Wi-Fi are secure. The additional “S” in “https” means a website has some level of encryption. As a result, hackers will have a harder time gaining access to your usernames, passwords, and private messages. 

Safe travels this summer! Use the tips above to avoid travel scams and keep GECU’s Online Banking or our mobile app handy to spot credit card fraud quickly.4 And be sure to pack your Visa Signature® in your wallet or link it to a digital wallet on your device so you can take advantage of all of its perks. You’ll earn 2x the points on every qualifying purchase you make on vacation. It’s not just a credit card with travel perks, though, because you’ll continue earning the same points on swipes when you’re back home!

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