Online Travel Scams — Safely Booking Your Next Caribbean Vacation

Online Travel Scams — Safely Booking Your Next Caribbean Vacation
Source: Hugh Whyte

It’s sadly all too common to hear of some unfortunate Caribbean tourists getting scammed out of their hard-earned money.

The Federal Trade Commission reported $5.6 billion in fraud-related losses in 2021, a 70% jump from the previous year.

You might think it will never happen to you, but the odds are only increasing. 

Today, we’re going to break down the most common online travel scams in the Caribbean and how you can avoid them before and during your holiday.

Online travel scams: the repeat offenders

Let’s start by looking at the types of travel scams that you’re most likely to come across online. 

#1. Identity fraud

By far, the most common online travel scam is identity fraud. Through various means, these scammers are looking for one prize above all else — your private information. 

Data like names, emails, and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are used to take out loans or even commit crimes, all under your name!

#2. Fake rentals, tours, and packages

Every traveler has had this nightmare — you book the perfect coastal villa only to arrive at the address and discover it doesn’t exist. 

This scenario happens too often, as it’s easy to create fake listings for:

  • Rentals and BnBs;
  • Exclusive tours;
  • All-inclusive pre-paid vacation packages;
  • Car or motorbike rental.

#3. Hacking via hotel Wi-Fi

After a day of sightseeing and soaking up the Caribbean sun, the last thing you’d expect is your hotel’s Wi-Fi to be a security risk.

However, as many public internet connections are password-free and unencrypted, it’s relatively easy to hack. Through Wi-Fi, all of your connected devices are at risk.

#4. Social engineering phone calls and emails

So you heard of some exclusive ticket prices via phone or email but don’t trust their source. You might have just dodged a social engineering scam.

These scam artists use the power of social engineering to persuade their victims to pay exorbitant prices and various unexpected fees.

5 cybersecurity tips for your next Caribbean vacation

It’s not only important to be aware of online risks before you travel to the Caribbean but also while you’re there. 

#1. Only purchase through trusted providers

Are you booking your tour through a random local website? Stop what you’re doing and restart your search through an established tourism provider. Trustworthy companies like TripAdvisor offer countless Caribbean tour packages without the risk of scams.

The same applies to any online holiday-related expenses — anytime you send money to unknown third parties, you run the risk of theft and other scams. Whether it’s accommodation, flights, or tours, only purchase through trusted platforms.

#2. Use a VPN while on holiday

Anytime you use public WiFi, you run the risk of falling for a Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attack. In this instance, a hacker finds their way into an unencrypted connection and situates themselves between the router and any device connected to it.

Any unencrypted data that passes through this connection is collected by the MITM. Encrypt your data on any connection with ease by installing a VPN on every device you take with you, including a VPN Chrome extension on your laptop.

#3. Avoid sharing personal data online

You’re probably very careful with your private data during your day-to-day life — until you enter pre-holiday mode. With all the excitement of upcoming adventures, individuals get lazy with their data safety, so this is where scammers are most likely to strike.

Don’t forget your cybersecurity just because you’re going on holiday. Sharing personal data is a part of booking trips, but beware with whom you share it:

  • Scammers are always looking for passport and credit card information.
  • Tourism agencies often share your data with various third parties.
  • Share sensitive data only with established airlines, hotels, tour providers, etc.

#4. Improve your cyber hygiene

If you’re the person who uses the same password for everything, this point is for you. Cyber hygiene is quickly becoming essential knowledge for any frequent internet user.

Cyber hygiene includes but is not limited to:

  • Password managers;
  • VPNs and antivirus software;
  • Safe online practices;
  • Basic cybercrime knowledge;
  • Cloud-based data backups.

#5. Do your own travel research

So many travelers pay unnecessary booking fees and get scammed out of a chunk of cash. Some online travel agents will inflate prices in order to secretly scam unknowing victims.

A little bit of travel research goes a long way — Google the hotel, tour company, or airline to discover the actual rates they charge. You just might discover you’re being tricked out of hundreds of dollars.

So… have you started packing yet?

Okay, now you’ve heard enough about the dark underworld of online travel scams. You have all the knowledge necessary to safely book your Caribbean getaway.

Well, what are you waiting for? The turquoise shores of the Caribbean are calling your name!


South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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