Beware of common travel-related cons over the holidays

Connecticut Better Business Bureau urges consumers to keep their guard up during holiday travel to not only protect themselves and their families, but also their money and personal information.

If trends reflect the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) 2012 estimates, approximately 91 million people will travel at least 50 miles over the holidays.

“Travelers’ primary concern is safety, especially on the highways,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President Paulette Scarpetti. “However, there also are potential dangers at rest stops and final destinations.”

Travelers should be aware of those risks:

ATM Skimming: When paying at the pump for gasoline, keep an eye out for unusual-looking card readers, false keypads and suspicious cameras.

Email Chain Letters: Inboxes are flooded with free or cheap offers for five-star accommodations, airline tickets or cruise passes, but clicking links may install malware or viruses. Avoid unsolicited too-good-to-be-true offers.

Front Desk Calls: Hotel guests receive calls from “the front desk” asking them to verify payment information, but the callers are actually criminals.

Sketchy Cab Drivers: Be wary if drivers claim that certain hotels or motels are closed and “suggest” other locations; there may be incentives for drivers to create business for less-than-ethical companies. Check to find reliable domestic taxi services.

Social Engineering: Swindlers use social media to obtain personal information about travel plans. Avoid posting specifics that entice thieves to loot temporarily vacant homes. Also, be wary of sudden calls or unsolicited emails regarding flights or vacation packages; never provide personal information or credit card numbers to unsolicited inquirers.

Consider using a BBB-accredited travel agency when making plans this holiday season. Schedule as early as possible to avoid higher prices and leave gifts unwrapped for security inspection if flying.

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