BBB Tip: Avoiding travel scams when planning for spring break

Spring break is a popular time for students to travel during a vacation from school. However, it also presents an opportunity for scammers to offer fraudulent vacation rentals, flights, or hotels designed to appeal to students and parents looking for a getaway. With spring break for many Texas school districts occurring within the next month, BBB reminds consumers to be wary of travel-related scams as they make their plans and finalize payments.

More than 55,000 travel, vacation, and timeshare fraud reports to the FTC in 2023 resulted in a $120 million loss. Scammers often take advantage of consumer habits and capitalize on trending internet searches, enticing consumers with great deals to popular destinations or all-inclusive packages. While these scams persist year-round, they often increase in frequency during times of the year that coincide with an increased interest in traveling, such as spring break and the holiday or summer season.

To assist consumers in identifying and avoiding the most common travel scams, BBB provides the following brief descriptions of the top five most-reported travel scams:

  • Vacation rental con. These con artists lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. The “owner” creates a false sense of urgency – such as telling potential clients that another vacationer is interested in the rental – to get payment up before doing sufficient research or questioning the ad’s legitimacy.
  • “Free” vacation scams. When a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is without cost or restrictions. Watch out for add-on fees for air transportation, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees.
  • Hotel scams. When staying in a hotel, beware of scammers who use various techniques to obtain credit card information, including fake front desk calls, free wi-fi connections and fake food delivery.
  • Third-party booking site scams. Use caution if you book your airfare, hotel, or other travel arrangements through a third-party website. BBB Scam Tracker continues to receive reports of scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers. In the most common version of the scam, travelers pay with a credit card and, shortly after making the payment, receive a call from the company asking to verify their name, address, banking information, or other personal details – something a legitimate company would never do.

To avoid becoming a victim of a travel scam this spring break, Better Business Bureau recommends prospective travelers follow these guidelines:

  • Get trip details in writing. Before making a final payment, get all the trip details in writing. Details should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels. Also, review and keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies and the travel agency or booking site’s cancellation policies.
  • Too-good-to-be-true deals. As is common in various scams, if the deal or discount seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often use this tactic to lure in potential victims and use aggressive “limited-time” language to entice travelers to pay before researching the business.
  • Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. These payments are the same as sending cash. Once the money is sent, there is no way to get it back. Consumers can dispute payments provided via a credit card, making recovering funds a much simpler process.
  • Call the rental owner. If you are not using a service that verifies properties and owners, do not negotiate a rental solely by email. Many scammers don’t live locally. Speaking with the owner on the phone and asking detailed questions about the property and local attractions will clarify whether the listing is genuine. An owner with vague answers is a clear red flag.
  • Unsolicited offers. Be cautious if you win a free trip without entering a contest or sweepstakes. This is especially true if the offer is time-sensitive and requires the consumer to pay a processing fee or risk it going to another “winner.” Check the official website of the company the offer originates from to verify that it is legitimate.

For more tips on how to avoid travel scams, visit

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a travel scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.