Don’t get taken; BBB warns of spring break and travel scams

Updated: Apr. 5, 2019 at 12:18 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - If you are hoping to head somewhere warmer this spring, buyer beware. 'Tis the season for spring break scams.

There were more than 5,000 complaints in 2018, according to the Better Business Bureau, concerning travel agencies and services.

"There are two scams that are prevalent during spring break, one is called the ‘grandparent scam,’ and the other I like to call the ‘bait and switch,'” said John D’Ambrosio, president of Coastal Carolina BBB.

“The grandparent scam goes something like this, ‘Hi grandma, it’s me, I’ve been arrested, I’m in the hospital, my car broke and I need money,’” D’Ambrosio explained.

It’s a frantic call that scammers use that really tugs at people’s emotions as they fear something is wrong with their loved one. A scammer pleads for money to be sent immediately.

“Get smart about this, ask for the grandchild’s name, or what school he or she goes to, or call a family member to see exactly where the student/grandchild is, so you can confirm if something really did happen,” said D’Ambrosio.

A request for you to send money by Western Union, Money Gram or a prepaid card is often a scam, according to the BBB.

D’Ambrosio says many travel deal scams come from unsolicited emails that students bite on because they are weary and they are looking to travel somewhere cheap. Most of them are too good to be true.

“There is no shortage of creativity in a crook’s mind. Students get an email to an exotic place that looks nice, they click on it, send money, they get to the hotel, and the hotel has no reservation for them,” he explained.

D’Ambrosio says never respond to those unsolicited emails.

“Try to book through a reliable travel agent or travel site. Always pay with a credit card and no cash or wire, so if you do get scammed you have recourse,” he stated.

  • Do your research - make sure you are always booking through a secured travel site if booking online.
  • Get detail about your trip in writing.
  • Pay with a credit card.
  • Don’t book on public wifi, which could share your credit card information
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance.
  • Be wary of claims you “won” a trip. Generally if you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift.
  • Verify the reputation of sites when booking travel by going to

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