Summer Vacation Scams

May 29, 2013

The New York State Attorney General's office issued two timely and important warnings about scams that seem to pop up as the weather warms.  In a two-part reprint of the NYSAG's release, BrokeAndBroker offers consumers information about Home Improvement Scams and Vacation Scams:


Whether it's to escape the heat of summer or the chill of winter, everyone considers finding a good deal on a vacation a big win. Except when the good deal isn't so good. As consumers search the internet looking for a good price on a dream vacation, scammers are trolling for victims to make a quick buck.

Here are some common vacation scams, and what you can do to make sure you're not caught in the net.

Vacation Rental Scams

The setup: It's just what you wanted! A cottage overlooking a quiet lake; a beachfront condo; an apartment in the heart of the city.  The problem?  It doesn't really exist. Especially prevalent on listing sites like Craigslist, consumers are drawn in by a great deal, they pay upfront and arrive to find that no such address exists.

Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Make sure the seller has a valid address and phone number.
  • Use a mapping website to verify that the address exists and looks like the photos.
  • Ask for references before signing any agreements or making a payment.
  • Use verified payment sources such as PayPal or a major credit card, which can be traced in the event something goes wrong.
  • NEVER make a payment using a wire transfer service such as Western Union or Money Gram.
Vacation Certificate Scams

The set up: you buy a certificate entitling you to deep discounts on flights, hotels or other vacation opportunities. The problem?  There are many. You are paying in advance for a vacation at an unspecified time. The companies frequently are out of business before you use the voucher, or there are so many restrictions that it is nearly impossible to make reservations. And, use of the certificates is often dependent upon using specific, high-priced facilities that negate any other savings, or the facilities are not the quality they claim to be.

Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Check to see if the seller is registered with NYS and with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
  • Check out reviews of the facilities available to the certificate users.
  • Read the purchase agreement carefully, looking for cancellation policies and making note of blackout dates and other restrictions.
Timeshares and Vacation Club Scams

Although a timeshare or vacation club may be a legitimate enterprise, the marketing techniques frequently involve high pressure sales that trap people into long term financial commitments they can't afford and may not use.

The set up: Firms offer free vacations if you agree to attend a presentation.  Potential buyers are offered "discounts" if they sign up "right now" for a multi-year membership.  The problem? The supposed discounts are frequently more expensive than regular offerings, the advantages and protections offered in the pitch are not the same as what's in the contract, and future costs and fees can escalate without notice.

Tips To Protect Yourself
  • Never consider this an "investment." There is little market demand for resale and you will almost certainly lose money on it. In addition, the resale market place is rife with fraud.
  • Never sign a contract for a multi-year commitment on the day of the pitch. Take the time to read it carefully, perhaps asking a lawyer to review it.
  • Look carefully at how costs can change over the life of the membership or ownership.