How to Avoid 3 Common Spring Break Scams

Photo by Elnur / Shutterstock.com

What better way to celebrate the end of the long winter than to jet or drive off for spring break?

The annual migration to warmer locales is a tradition that started primarily with college students in the 1950s, but now includes many young professionals and families. The most popular destinations include Austin, Texas; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Tampa, Florida; South Padre Island, Texas; Las Vegas; New Orleans; Miami; Panama City Beach, Florida, Cancun, Mexico; and Los Angeles, according to USA Today.

Unfortunately, the growing volume of spring break travel has sparked a growing number of travel scams. The American Hotel & Lodging Association reported in 2016 that scams affect about 15 million bookings each year — at a cost of about $1.3 billion to unsuspecting American travelers. Just as spring break is high season for travel, it is high season for scams.

So as you plan for your spring break, consider three of the most notorious travel scams and how to avoid them:

Scam No. 1: Renting a property that isn’t available

Some scammers advertise and collect rent on desirable properties that they don’t own. Vacationers arrive at the locale only to be told the property was never available. NBC News reported on a would-be Florida vacationer who wired $1,500 for what she thought was a beachfront property. When the Michigan woman and her family arrived, they found there were no accommodations available. The property manager had turned away five other groups of vacationers, all of whom had fallen for the same scam.

Solution: Authorities and travel experts recommend that you never rely solely on the contracting party for information. Google the property’s address, contact the property independently of the agent with whom you speak and pay with a credit card.

Scam No. 2: Cruise liquidation sales

Ever see flyers for cruise liquidation sales? Chances are good that any such unsolicited flyers are hoaxes, according to Ed Johnson, of the mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Better Business Bureau, speaking to WJLA-TV. He made the statement after reviewing the “spring liquidation sale” flyer that prompted a D.C.-area woman to book a trip for her family of five. Although the woman thought she was booking an eight-day Caribbean cruise for $750, she ended up paying about $1,200. What she bought was actually membership in a “vacation club.” When the woman attempted to cancel her membership and get answers, the representative hung up on her.

Solution: Research any cruise company before you sign a contract or send money. You can start by checking the Better Business Bureau database for information and ratings. Also, carefully read any information you are given. In the case described above, the woman had missed information on the paperwork she was given that said the company “is a vacation consulting company and is not the fulfiller of these vacation packages.” And, of course, don’t pay for anything until you have a contract from the company. Review all terms and conditions, taxes and fees, and cancellation policies, recommended the BBB. In addition, confirm all reservations, total cost, flights, hotel reservations, cancellation policies and restrictions.

Scam No. 3: People charging border-crossing fees

A third common scam is one that affects international travelers, especially visitors to South and Central America, according to HiYa, an online consumer research community. Scam artists target travelers when they cross land borders — demanding a tax or fee for a purchase a special visa.

Solution: Research the border requirements before you travel. Go to the official government site of the country to which you’ll travel. You can also check travel sites such as Along Dusty Roads, which frequently updates the fees for border crossings.

Once you are traveling and at the border, don’t be bullied by anyone who approaches you in line even if they look official. Keep your passport out of sight, not in your hand. Do not give your passport to anyone except an official agent. Note: If you are crossing between two Latin American countries, an agent or even a bus driver may demand money. Some are emboldened by the readiness of tourists to pay it. You may have no choice, according to HiYa. Read travel blogs and sites, including Lonely Planet, so you understand what risks you may encounter.

Sure, spring break can be a lot of fun if you research your options and opportunities before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

What’s your experience with spring break travel? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask
14 Service Providers Most Likely to Lower Your Bill If You Ask

With these companies, it might be easier than you think to negotiate your monthly bill down.

10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself
10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself

Making any of these key foods yourself will improve meals — and your budget.

9 Ways to Get Affordable Vet Care
9 Ways to Get Affordable Vet Care

Medical care for your furry friends can be expensive. Here are some tips to get affordable vet care.

This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say
This Cellphone Carrier Has the Worst Network Quality, Customers Say

One major wireless provider stands out for the least reliable call, messaging and data services.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

From your closet to the beach, the trash you find may be someone else’s treasure.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.