RALEIGH, N.C. — We all need a little rest and relaxation, but nothing will ruin a vacation faster than a travel or rental scam. 

North Carolina Attorney Josh Stein offers these tips to help you sidestep the scams, and protect your money and identity: 

Beware of too-good-to-be-true offers. 

When things seem too good to be true, they usually are. Be suspicious if someone calls you to offer a free vacation or tells you that you've won a trip in a contest you don't remember entering. Do your research on the company - look online to see if they're legitimate. Check if they have complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau

Get it in writing and always pay with a credit card. 

Be diligent about the details. If you're planning a trip on your own or with the help of a travel agency, be sure to get any promises from the agency or other vendors in writing. And always pay with a credit card instead of cash or a debit card, so you can dispute a charge for a service you didn't receive. If you have coupons or vouchers, call the company directly to see if the coupon is legitimate. 

Do your research on timeshares and vacation clubs. 

Beware of vacation clubs that offer excessively high upfront membership costs - shop around before you commit to one so you can get a better idea of the price you should be paying. Get reviews from other members, and research whether the membership will actually save you money. 

Know your rights if renting, rather than staying in a hotel. 

If you're renting a home in North Carolina for less than 90 days, rather than staying in a hotel, you are protected by North Carolina's Vacation Rental Act. The law says the property owner must specify details about your rights and obligations as a renter, and include details about prices and the security deposit. 

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