Travel can heighten your risk of fraud and identity theft. When booking a trip, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, and don’t send money through a wire transfer. While traveling, avoid using public Wi-Fi and shared computers — and wait until you get home to post about your trip on social media.

Research from the U.S. Travel Association shows that more people are hitting the road — and getting hit with scams.

This includes car rental scams, bogus airfare bookings, phony travel sites, and fake travel agents trying to capture their money and personal information.

If you’re going somewhere, you can take steps to up your defenses. Read on to find out about today’s common travel scams and how to avoid them, and learn how we support our members anytime fraud occurs — even if you’re on vacation. 

Common travel scams 

Some travel scams are designed to capture your payment information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Americans lost $175 million to vacation and travel fraud in 2020. 

The cost of this fraud type decreased in 2021, but losses still clocked in at $95 million. 

Other scams use travel offers as an excuse to capture your personal details. And once scammers have your personal information — like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, or full names — identity theft and fraud may follow. 

Wondering what it might look like to get hit by a travel scam? Here are some examples to watch out for: 

  • Unexpected calls from travel companies: If you get an unexpected call from a travel firm, don’t give away sensitive details over the phone, even if you have a relationship with the company. It could be a scammer on the other end. Hang up, look up the company’s official number, and call back before conducting business.

  • Robocalls or texts offering travel deals or “free” vacations: You may receive robocalls offering discounted — or even free — vacation deals. While it may be tempting to take the bait, know that legitimate businesses shouldn't contact you in this way.

  • Timeshares or vacation clubs with hidden fees: Before signing up for a timeshare or vacation club, understand exactly what you’re getting and what it costs.

  • Timeshare resale scams: In this common scam, the criminals take your money, but the buyer never materializes. If you own a timeshare and you’re trying to sell, beware of third-party services that require payment upfront in exchange for finding a buyer. 

  • Fake travel documents: You might see websites that promise to help you obtain an international travel visa, passport, or other documents in exchange for a fee. When it comes to important travel documents, trust the U.S. Department of State and steer clear of fake sites.

How to protect your vacation and identity 

The truth is that even the best habits won’t completely safeguard you from fraud — but there are some things you can do while booking a trip, when you’re en route, and once you’re back home that can help you avoid and prevent identity theft.  

Before you go

While booking a trip, it’s helpful to adopt a healthy skepticism. Sometimes, a hot deal is a bad sign.

Before you take off, consider our tips: 

  • Be wary of any offer promising rock-bottom prices for luxury accommodations. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • If you’re not sure about a travel offer, try checking the market to see if the offer is in line with other similar inventory. If it’s not, consider moving on, or at least dig a little deeper to find out why.  

  • Avoid any requests to send money through a wire transfer or peer-to-peer payment services. Wiring money — or sending it via platforms like Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App — is like giving someone cash. Once the money is gone, it’s very difficult to get back, which is why wire transfers are a preferred payment method for scammers. The same goes for gift cards and cryptocurrency. 

  • Book travel with a credit card, rather than a debit card, which usually offers more consumer protections and is a safer bet for payments. 

  • Whether you’re booking directly with a hotel or airline or using a third-party broker, look for companies that have familiar brand names and plenty of positive online reviews. When in doubt, consider using the Better Business Bureau’s database to check for any red flags before making a travel-related purchase.

  • Be on the lookout for phishing campaigns, too. These phony emails and landing pages can appear to come from well-known travel companies, but they’re actually fakes designed to capture your money or credentials. Before sharing financial or personal information online, make sure the site is secure and begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secure and means collected information will be encrypted).

Before making a commitment, always consider doing some internet research — such as checking the address on Google maps — to confirm that all the details add up. 

While you’re away

Once you’re en route, you’re at a heightened risk of identity theft. 

Anytime you use public Wi-Fi or shared devices, there’s a chance criminals can access your information.

While traveling, consider using a VPN, or save sensitive transactions — like logging into financial accounts — for when you’re at home.

While hotel business centers are convenient, public computers can be infected with malware designed to capture your information, so it’s best to avoid those, too. 

Social media shares can also put you at risk when you’re on the road. 

If criminals know where you are and what you’re doing, that knowledge can power highly targeted spear phishing attacks. Plus, by posting about your vacation in real time, you’re essentially advertising the fact that you’re not at home, and that your assets — like your house or car — may be easy targets for thieves in the physical world. 

Your devices and credit cards may also be more vulnerable when you travel. In a recent warning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) advised consumers not to charge their phones at public charging stations, since bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices.

To combat this, we recommend that you carry your own charger and USB cord, leave unnecessary tech at home, and make sure all hardware is password protected. Also, if your Allstate Identity Protection plan includes our device security features, be sure to enable them while you're away.

After a trip

If you have Allstate Identity Protection, our near real-time alerts help you spot threats to your identity so you can take quick action to minimize your risk. A few taps are all it takes to let us know if an action made in your name — like, say, opening a new line of credit — isn’t legit. 

If you spot fraud after a trip — or anytime, for that matter – call our U.S.-based remediation specialists. We’ll work with third parties, like law enforcement, credit bureaus, and financial institutions, to restore your credit, identity, and financial health. 

With us working on your behalf, you’re free to relax and enjoy more of your vacation — and your life — without worrying about your identity.