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Ready for vacation? How to make sure you're not booking on a fake site

Fake vacation, flight and car rental sites are out there.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — By air, by land, and even by the sea! You've seen friends and family on a trip and you're ready to go. Me too. Before you book that trip, know what’s going on out there.

“We have reports of timeshare, travel, vacation scams and then the day comes and there's no ticket and they're out of a ton of money and there's no flight,” Lauran Blankenship of the Better Business Bureau said.

Fake vacations are becoming a thing. Websites that are made to look like AirBnB or booking sites or rental car companies are popping up. Plus, the Better Business Bureau warns scammers are creating look-a-like websites mimicking travel programs like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry.

"You think that you're we are actually on you know, TSA's website, you think that you're either working directly with a reputable third party who could help you sign up, and they do look legitimate," said Kelsey Coleman, Director of Communications for the BBB in Metro-Washington D.C.

Here's how it works, if you search online for a program, chances are the true site will be near the top. However, you'll also get copycat websites that look identical to the legit ones.

Avoid Being Duped By Fake Sites

  • Double-check you have the correct link
  • Look for signs that the link is secure and starts with "https", the "S" is key
  • If it is a government website it should end in ".gov"

A major indicator of a scam is an unusual payment method, like a money transfer or being asked to pay in gift cards.

"Those are huge red flags because once you pay in those forms of payment, you can't get your money back," said Blakenship said. "It's very, very difficult to trace. Scammers know that.”

Once you wire transfer or pay in a gift card, really, that is it.  At least if you paid with a credit card, not a debit card, but a true credit card, you could stop the charges.