BBB warns travelers to watch out for airline, rental car schemes


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you’re planning a vacation and need to book a flight or rent a car, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering tips to help make sure you don’t fall victim to a scheme.

The latest travel numbers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) show an increase of nearly 1.6 million passengers going through airport checkpoints compared to this time last year.

“People are desperate for a change of scenery this summer,” the BBB’s local chief marketing and sales officer Paula Fleming said, adding that consumer confidence is increasing as more people get vaccinated and restrictions are lifted.

According to Fleming, the BBB is seeing an increase in rental car and airline schemes nationwide.

For rental cars, the schemes stem from the recent shortage that’s caused prices to soar.

“Whether you’re renting a home, renting a cottage or renting a car, it’s limited right now because so many people are doing it,” she said.

Fleming said the way the rental car scheme works is that potential victims think they’ve found a great deal on one, and then they’re asked to pay using a prepaid debit card or gift card. That’s a huge red flag, according to Fleming.

“Scammers prefer these types of payments because there’s nothing you can do once you provide that information to get your money back,” she explained.

When it comes to the airline scheme, Fleming said people are receiving solicitations through calls, emails and social media.

“Whenever you’re booking travel online, it’s extremely important to make sure that you’re using a reputable company and a secure website,” she said.

When booking a flight or rental car, always use a credit card to pay, Fleming advised. She also said if you have credit from a rescheduled trip, such as a cruise or a flight, make sure you read the fine print because their could be a time limit on when you can use it.

Here are more tips from the BBB to protect yourself from a rental car scheme:

  • Use contact information listed directly on the business’s website, instead of relying on an internet search for customer support phone numbers. (Also, double check the URL.)
  • Beware of sponsored links. Fake websites sometimes pop up in your web browser’s sponsored ad section and appear at the top of the search results. Be careful when clicking! Hover over the URL to be sure it’s the right one.
  • When in doubt, verify special deals directly with the company. If you are unsure about a promotional offer, get the customer service number from the company’s official website. Call the company directly to make sure the deal is real.

Here are more tips from the BBB to protect yourself from an airline scheme:

  • Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchases. Look on for reviews and feedback from previous customers.
  • Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with https:// and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more here.)
  • Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork too.
  • Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared.

If you’ve fallen victim to a scheme, you can report it to the BBB using their Scam Tracker. You can also follow the BBB on social media to stay on top of the latest schemes.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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