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There’s nothing worse for people about to go on a vacation than showing up at the airport, hotel or cruise ship only to realize the dream you thought you signed up for is really a scam.

We already showed you how to protect yourself from scams while on vacation, but the number of travelers getting ripped off before they even leave the airport is on the rise Recently, one Chicagoan was tricked out of a post-graduation getaway with friends by a company called Legendary Journeys. After shelling out $13,000 for what was thought to be a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas, the group showed up in Miami only to learn that the faux travel company had not actually booked them on the cruise after all. According to CBS Chicago, Carnival is still investigating the “unfortunate situation.”

While it’s easy to get sucked into what may sound like a good deal, it’s also easy to do your research to ensure that “deal” is the real thing. Here are three common ticket scams, and how you can avoid getting caught up in them.

Fake Airline Giveaways

The old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it is” was practically created for social media where bots and fake accounts run rampant. Offers to win free airline tickets if you “like” or “share” an airline’s page are not only fake, they’re dangerous. Often these sites collect personal information from users, which can be sold and lead to identity fraud.

To stay safe, always confirm directly with the company or business that the “giveaway” is indeed real instead of signing up through a third party like Facebook.

Vacation Ponzi Schemes

What may seem like a good deal now can cost you dearly in the long run — especially when we’re talking about vacation Ponzi schemes. Those are usually targeted at senior citizens and unsurprisingly rampant in states like Florida, where the percentage of elderly residents is high. Participants are invited (on their own dime) to listen to a presentation and then duped into paying for expensive vacations up front that never materialize.

To keep yourself (or your loved ones) out of trouble, steer clear of these events altogether. It’s better to use points and miles if getting a “free” trip is what you’re after.

Booking Site Scams

As we previously covered on TPG, vacationers like our friends from Chicago can easily be duped by fake booking sites. In New Orleans, a group of women recently paid $5,000 to a company called OBL Travel, which according to the Better Business Bureau has 14 complaints against them, for hotel rooms and passes to the annual Essence festival — only to find out that the hotel had no record of their reservation. Now the group is out the money, and without tickets to the concert.

The truth is anyone these days can create a fake website or vacation rental listing, and once they’ve got your money, there’s a good chance they’ll disappear.

If you’re booking a trip through a website you’ve never worked with before, you must do your homework first. Use organizations like the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has been reported in the past. And since sites like Craigslist, a breeding ground for scams, are largely unregulated, your best bet is to just stay away. Trust us: It’s not worth the risk.

How Credit Cards Can Help Protect You

In addition to the points you can earn booking travel with a credit card such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), the Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases), booking any trip with a credit card as opposed to a debit card is a must. Not only do most cards offer certain trip protections, but debit cards give scammers direct access to your bank account, which means your money may be gone for good. Book with a credit card and banks can often refund any fraudulent charges, plus you can dispute any charge if the merchant doesn’t come through with the promised goods or services.

Feature photo byGreg Vaughn/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Images.

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Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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