Fake Hotels and Rentals

Who knew there so many ways of parting a tourist and his money?

 Although we've written about fake hotel bookings and vacation rentals before, the scam has risen at such an alarming rate during the past couple of years, it's worth repeating the warning.

 The scam usually takes the form of someone advertising a hotel or rental property they don't own -- and the poor vacationers don't discover they've been conned until they arrive at their destination.

 The American Hotel & Lodging Association says this crime is netting around $4 billion a year for scammers.

 The crooks may advertise individual rentals on sites like Craigslist. In more sophisticated scams, they create fake sites that are almost identical to genuine hotels' sites.

 Action: You've got to be sharp-eyed to catch out these scammers. If you're renting a vacation property, it's best to do it through one of the big owner agencies or major travel sites. Some of these agencies also offer insurance in case your rental turns out to be fake.

 With hotels, again, it's always best to work via reputable travel sites. If you feel in any way unsure, call the hotel, ask questions to satisfy yourself they're genuine, and then book over the phone.

 Always pay with a credit card, so that if you do get stung, you'll likely be protected against significant losses.