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As Michiganders gear up for spring break, experts warn about scammers

South Beach Party Problem
Posted at 2:11 PM, Mar 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-20 22:38:07-04

(WXYZ) — It's that time of the year again, where students and families across Michigan make the most of spring break and head to warmer places, an annual trend that goes on until the first week of April.

But unfortunately, going on these trips can allow scammers to target travelers by offering fraudulent vacation rentals and bonus deals.

Brianna Holmes is a student at Wayne State, and as spring break wraps up at the university this year, she says she and her friends noticed a lot of fantastic travel deals hitting her inbox.

"The Jamaica one was very tempting, it was a seven-day trip to Jamaica, with all-inclusive breakfast and stuff like that," said Holmes.

RELATED: Booking a spring break trip? Here's what you need to know

Holmes knew it was a fraudulent email, but David Fishman, who has over 39 years of experience in the travel industry, says that spring break scams have been consistent over the years. Thanks to the internet, con-artists have more opportunities to fool people.

"So the scam can find you, which is kind of scary. You get that message pops up; 'Oh my God, that is a great deal.' No, no... make sure it's real," said President Cadillac Travel Group David Fishman.

According to the BBB, the top five vacation scams are:

  • Vacation Rental
  • "Free" Vacation offer
  • Hotel Scams
  • Third-Party Booking Site deals
  • Timeshare Reselling Scams

"It always seems like they get to the hotel, and the hotel doesn’t have the money, or the cruise line doesn’t have the money. That’s consistent with what I have found to be the situation," said Fishman.

Trace3 Security Consultant Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz says it all starts with “too good to be true deal” links coming as text messages or emails.

"A lot of these bad actors, set up a site, set up links, links for a very short period of time, monetize it very quickly, and are gone before you know it," said Benoit-Kurtz.

Over the years, scammers have also changed their tactics.

"What they are looking for is you to pay a security deposit or something that’s abnormal with gift cards, with money orders, Zelle or Venmo," said Benoit-Kurtz.

RELATED: Whether by car or plane, spring break travelers rethink plans as fuel prices soar

Charity Weiss knows how being scammed feels. A couple of years ago, while on spring break, Weiss received a message from a friend asking for money in the form of gift cards, only to realize later that the message was not authentic.

"I completely fell for it, I send this man or whoever $500 and if you look back at the link, the text code showed her name and number but if you clicked on it showed a fake email," said Weiss.

As for what steps do people take to protect themselves?

"If there is just HTTP, no S, don’t book on that site because it's not secure," said Fishman.

Benoit-Kurtz's advice is to not click through the link if it looks like a good deal. She recommends going to the actual vendor's website or calling them to check out their credibility.

Experts also say if you want your travel plans to be bulletproof then get travel insurance as an extra safety net and if you want to take it a step further then book through a reputable travel agent.