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Florida warns of vacation scams

Visit Florida reported 4% increase in tourists in first quarter of 2016

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With tourism hitting record numbers in the Sunshine State, vacation and travel plans become even more popular in the summer months. 

Visit Florida recently reported an increase of more than four percent in tourists in the first quarter of 2016.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) encourages Floridians and visitors to be on guard for common scams involving vacation and travel plans.

Vacation Rental Scam – In this type of scam, scammers post fake vacation home rental opportunities on classified ad or forum websites with luxurious details and a low price to entice victims. Typically, they require a large upfront deposit. Once the victim arrives at their destination and realizes the vacation rental is sham, the money is long gone. 

Sweepstakes Scam – Victims of this type of scam receive a notice, typically either by email or mail, stating that they have won an all-expenses paid vacation to an exotic location, and they simply need to pay a service fee or handling charges to claim their “prize.” Scammers may request that the fee be paid by a wire transfer or a prepaid debt card. Once the transfer is made, the scammer steals the money and no prize vacation materializes.

Social Media Free Vacation Scam – In this type of scam, scammers post offers of all-inclusive free vacations on social media, asking people to share, comment or “like” the post for a chance to win the vacation. This will drive up the popularity of the post, showing it in more feeds. The scammer will then edit the post slightly to include a link in an effort to get victims to click on the link so they can steal their personal identifying information.

When making vacation or travel plans this summer, please keep these tips in the forefront of your mind to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Be extremely wary of the word “free.”
  • Always use a company’s direct website when looking for special offers.
  • Unsolicited offers are probably not legitimate.
  • Beware of high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Be cautious of offers that sound “too good to be true.”

Do your own independent research so that you can make a fully informed decision.

Always check to see if a company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Verify that the company is properly licensed before you do business with them.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) licenses and regulates hotels and timeshares. Verify a license or file a complaint with DBPR at www.myfloridalicense.com.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) licenses and regulates travel agencies, vacation certificates and sellers or promoters of travel related services. Verify a license or file a complaint with DACS at www.freshfromflorida.com.  

If you are a victim of a travel scam or to report suspicious activity, please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

If you are a victim of financial fraud or to report suspicious activity, please file a complaint with the OFR online, www.flofr.com, or call (850) 487-9687.