LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — With the middle of summer here, scammers are still taking advantage of people that are looking to travel and are trying to schedule travel plans. It’s easy for scammers to do this with the ability to book trips online.
Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said, “When we’re searching online, we can’t really trust everything that we see, and one of the ones that we’ve had reported to us and have seen in the past is actual properties that do exist that scammers basically take pictures of the property, take the address, advertise that it’s for rent, and then when they get a consumer that’s interested in renting the property, they collect a deposit upfront and what happens is the property itself does exist but it’s not for rent.”
These vacation rental cons lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. The scammer tells the potential clients another vacationer is interested in the rental, then taking payment upfront.
“We encourage you to try to talk to the owner or the renter of that property on the phone, ask them some questions, and try to just verify that they do actually have control of the property,” explained Babin. “The vague answers that they might give you sometimes might be a red flag. Just try to verify that the property you’re booking is actually one for rent.”
Maegan Sonnier, Owner of Travel Machine, a full-service travel agency in Lafayette, says they’ve received a lot of horror stories from people who have had issues with their own travel plans.
“This year, with everything going on, they’re arriving to the airport, and they don’t have the documentation that they need so they can’t go on their trip. They’re getting calls the day before they leave saying that their vacation rental was actually sold to a new owner who’s no longer renting it so they’re going to be refunding their money, but it doesn’t help them. It doesn’t help their kids who’ve packed up telling them that they’re not going on vacation,” said Sonnier.
Sonnier says Travel Machine can help control the vacation reservations… that way if something happens, there’s a backup.
“We have a lot of do-it-your-selfers who will plan their trip and they’ll call us and say, ‘Hey, look, these are the flights I want, this the place I want to stay, I want a car rental, this the price I’m getting online can you book it for me because I just don’t feel comfortable with the parameters. I want you to handle the COVID restrictions. I want you to handle making sure I have the right documentation,'” added Sonnier.
Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to help you avoid vacation scams:
- Look for reviews and ask for references. While vetting hotels, travel companies, and vacation rentals, look for reviews and complaints.
- Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. These payments are the same as sending cash.
- Do some snooping. Check out the company’s social media accounts.
If you have a scam you’d like to be investigated, send an email to email@example.com.