Before heading on your dream vacation, read our list of four common vacation scams to watch out for and learn how to avoid them. 

1. The bogus prize 

In this scam, you’ll get a notification that you’re the lucky winner of a free vacation. You’ll start planning your trip, only to find you’re constantly asked to pay various “prize fees,” “taxes” or “deposits” as the departure date approaches. Your “free” vacation isn’t free at all! 

You might get suspicious and pull out. Or, you might go ahead with your plans and realize you’ve been conned when you arrive. The vacation destination will either not exist, or be so substandard you’ll need a vacation from your vacation when it’s all over. 

graphic of a guy getting handed a large golden trophy out of a computer screen

2. The dream-priced rental 

In this scam, you’ll get a notification that you’re the lucky winner of a free You’re searching for that perfect vacation rental on Airbnb, and there it is! Precisely what you’ve been looking for — and at a dream price!

You’ll contact the renter who offers an even steeper discount if you pay through a third-party processing site instead of Airbnb. You’ll then be asked to pay a deposit or even the full price of the rental before you arrive. While it’s entirely expected to pay upfront through Airbnb or another rental service, you will not have the same protection if you’re not using the site.

The problem starts when you get to your vacation spot and learn that the address you have does not exist.

3. Phony “experiences”

Another vacation scam to watch out for are phony experiences. Sites like Airbnb allow you to book “experiences,” or days out on the town with locals. This platform has become a breeding ground for scammers. You might book a tour, pay for it and find out too late that the tour is completely bogus. 

man stranded on a rock in the middle of a rough grey sea

4. Travel-club membership with a catch 

In these scams, unscrupulous travel companies persuade you to join their travel club with the promise of benefits and discounts. Unfortunately, once you’ve joined, you’ll be charged high dues for perks and discounts that are so hard to access, they’re practically worthless. 

man handing you a broken crumpled box that that has been taped to cover damage

Watch Out For These Red Flags:

There are many more vacation scams to watch out for, make sure you are not a victim.

1. Upfront fees. Whether it’s a vacation rental, a tourist experience or a sweepstakes prize, you should not have to pay more than a small deposit before your arrival.

2. Specific payment methods. If you’re asked to pay via wire transfer only, you’re looking at a scam.

3. Skimpy details. When booking any vacation, do your research. If your contact refuses to provide anything more than the most basic of details and you can’t find much info online, you’re likely looking at a bogus vacation.

4. Extremely low prices. If a vacation rental or package is priced ridiculously low, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a scammer.

5. Pressure tactics. If you’re urged to sign up for a vacation package quickly or risk losing the deal, opt-out.