Common Summer Travel Scams

  • 01 of 05

    Treacherous Wi-Fi Hotspots

    Teenage girl using a smart phone
    Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

    Travelers who want to keep track of what's happening at home often are pleased to find a free wi-fi hotspot they can use to check email or their account balances. But taking advantage of such opportunities is increasingly risky.

    Scam artists set up their own hotspots (something hackers call a pineapple) that are designed to look like an access point you would connect with at your favorite restaurant or hotel. The technology costs less than $100, but an identity thief can earn that back quickly at your expense.

    They'll use this approach to hack into your most sensitive personal information -- bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and other items that make identity theft a breeze. 

    Be certain the wireless access you're using comes from a reputable source. Your hotel or restaurant should give you an access code or password that is necessary for a connection. Take steps to access the Internet safely while traveling.

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  • 02 of 05

    Fradulent Line-Skipping Offers

    THE GRAND LOUVRE
    Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images

    There are legitimate ways to cut to the front of long lines, especially admission ticket lines. You can even bypass long U.S. customs and TSA checkpoint lines. At some attractions, purchasing tickets and printing them at home saves time and money. 

    Alas, some attractions simply don't offer such options. You'll need to show up at times when lines tend to be shorter. 

    Among common summer travel scams is the thief who approaches you in a long line and offers to sell tickets on the spot. This crook will be wearing what appears to be an official uniform, with official-looking tickets in hand.

    Those tickets are generally phony. A victim forks over the money (in cash). In the time it takes for that unfortunate target to move up to the front of the line and attempt to gain admission with these useless tickets, the scam artist(s) will make a quick getaway.

    On site -- no matter how long the line -- never consider buying tickets from anyone who isn't sitting behind a ticket window.

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  • 03 of 05

    Phishing for a Vacation Rental Victim

    Blocks of apartments in Paris
    Photography taken by Mario Gutiérrez. / Getty Images

    Let's say we sent you an email in which we tell you this beautiful mansion is mine. In this message, we describe sweeping views, elegant refinements, and a rent that starts at $350/week for a three-room suite. Would you be a bit skeptical? We certainly hope so!

    That example is a bit extreme, but these sorts of scams operate successfully every day, especially during the summer months. Scammers with a few nice pictures, an Internet connection, and some graphic design skills set up what are called phishing sites.

    These fraudulent web pages are set up to collect your personal information and a payment. You'll get nothing but disappointment in return.  

    Some are freestanding pages, while others are part of an online listing such as what you find on Craigslist. At first, it might be difficult to distinguish legitimate listings from the fakes. But Craigslist offers good suggestions for avoiding such scams. Skip making payments to people you've never met in person, or those who want a wire transfer of money.  

    If you'll be booking a vacation rental online, it's safer to work through a reputable booking agency such as Airbnb.com, VRBO.com, HomeAway.com or HomeExchange.com. These companies require proof that the party making the offer actually has the legal right do to so.

    Scams are possible on any platform, but using someone who attempts thorough screenings will make your rental options safer.

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  • 04 of 05

    Unsolicited Beach Massages

    Aerial View Of Tourists On Beach
    Dario Cingolani / EyeEm / Getty Images

    There is a scam in which a stranger befriends you in a confusing place, helping you with some task and then demanding money for that service. A summer variation of this involves the itinerant masseur or masseuse.

    These thieves work the beach and will approach you unsolicited. They are not easily discouraged, often giving free sample massages to those who doubt or decline.

    The encounter usually results in either an extremely high-priced massage, or an accomplice stealing from your beach bag as you express your outrage about the pay demands.

    Politely but firmly decline such services.

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  • 05 of 05

    Free Summer Vacation Offers

    Free vacation offer
    Enfp, Inc./Moment Mobile/Getty Images

    Go to the Better Business Bureau website and do a search for "free vacation." You'll find a long list of businesses, many of which have generated cases the BBB is investigating.

    You might think only the most gullible of consumers would fall for the offer of a free vacation that comes for no apparent reason. But the sheer number of complaints and the survival of this technique suggest there are plenty of people who still believe they won a contest they never entered or simply were chosen at random for travel riches.

    As a good budget traveler, you know the difference between finding great free attractions and an entirely free vacation. The latter always comes with strings attached that are designed to separate you from your money.

    Don't bother checking out these offers. Save yourself time and decline them.