As families, students and friends gear up for their summer travel plans, Better Business Bureau warns of the following scams and travel headaches that could potentially plague consumers this summer:
1. Fraudsters hacking internet connections in hotels. The FBI recently issued a warning to consumers about scam artists using internet connections in hotels to gain access to consumer’s personal information using pop-up windows that appear as “software updates.”
BBB Tip: Avoid clicking on pop-up windows and suspicious advertisements. Perform software updates on laptops immediately before traveling, and download any computer updates directly from the software vendor’s website.
2. Scam artists posing as a distressed family member or friend. Fraudsters pose as vacationing friends or family members asking for money to be wired to help them get out of a messy situation. This scam can come as an email or as a phone call.
BBB Tip: Avoid wiring money. Attempt to first contact the said friend or family member directly. If needed, call other family members or friends to verify the story.
3. High-pressured travel club and sales pitches. Complaints to BBB show that many travel clubs promise huge discounts on hotels, airfare and cruises but fail to fully deliver despite the high cost of joining. In addition, complaints allege consumers felt misled and pressured into making an on-the-spot decision.
BBB Tip: Before signing up with a travel club, vacationers should do their research and check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
4. Sneaky cell phone data charges. When traveling abroad, some consumers do not realize their cell phone data plan doesn’t cover the area they’re traveling in. Even though those travelers may not be using their phone, roaming charges may still apply. Some complaints to BBB allege consumers were unaware that their cell data service was still operating while they traveled outside of their coverage area.
BBB Tip: Before traveling abroad or out of your coverage area, contact your service provider for specific details regarding your individual data and roaming plan and make appropriate changes prior to your departure.
5. The dark side of social media updates. One of the biggest mistakes travelers can make is to alert the world to the fact they are not in town by updating or posting on social media sites. Updates and tagged posts on sites like Facebook and Four Square can alert criminals to your exact location, leaving your home and personal belongings vulnerable.
BBB Tip: It’s best to keep your travel plans offline until you return from your vacation. If you must update, review your privacy settings before you leave. Change settings so that posts don’t identify where you are. And don’t be too specific with your updates.