Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Travel Scams

Planning a vacation? Beware of companies promising free travel or extreme discounts. Educate yourself on these common travel scams to avoid becoming a victim:

Advance Payment Travel Scam

In this type of scam, unethical sellers typically contact you claiming that you have won a “free luxury vacation” or a “free cruise.” The only requirement is that you pay the taxes, port charges or some other “fee." However, Florida law stipulates that you cannot be charged anything other than the cost associated with getting your prize to you.

High-Pressure Timeshare Purchase Scam

You are offered a free weekend at a timeshare resort in exchange for sitting through a high-pressure sales presentation. After taking advantage of the offer and not purchasing a timeshare, you are contacted again four or five years later by the same company. The caller informs you that you never fulfilled your contractual requirement to listen to a second timeshare sales presentation within three years and that you now owe a substantial amount of money for the “free weekend” you spent. You are told that if you would be willing to make an immediate $250 payment, the company won’t pursue legal action and ruin your credit.

Travel Club Scam

Fraudulent travel clubs claim you'll have access to incredibly cheap vacations if you join. But, after you sign a contract and pay membership fees and annual dues, it soon becomes apparent that the promised travel deals aren't going to materialize. Numerous restrictions may be placed on when you can take a trip, or you could be required to pay an additional handling charge of up to $100 just to book the reservation.

It might not be until after you actually arrive at your destination that you become fully aware of what is, or is not, included in a vacation “special” offered by the travel club. Additional fees may be required for you to enjoy certain amenities at the resort. If you find that the accommodations are less than desirable, the representative who checked you in will probably offer you the ability to upgrade, which will mean a substantial addition to the cost of the vacation. 

Vacation Rental Scam

In this scam, you think you have found an incredible vacation deal or rental property through a website. You are told by the scammer to submit a deposit (typically by wire transfer) in order to secure the deal. When you arrive for your vacation getaway, the property does not exist or it may be far less desirable than what was portrayed in pictures.

Protect Yourself from Travel Scams

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) protects consumers from unethical sellers of travel. FDACS does this by requiring all non-exempt sellers of travel to register each year and to include their registration number in all advertisements and contracts. Even if a company is located in another state, it is required to register with FDACS if it sells to Florida consumers. View the list of exemptions.

To find out if a seller of travel is registered and if any complaints have been filed against it, use our Business/Complaint Lookup or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).

In addition, follow these tips to safeguard your money and your travel plans:

  • Never give out credit card or checking account numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call and are certain of the company’s credentials.
  • Beware of high-pressure sales tactics and pitches that require immediate payment. Do not make hasty decisions. Be especially wary if a company offers to have someone pick up your money.
  • Read the entire contract thoroughly, ask questions, and do not sign it if you have doubts about anything.
  • Check with other travel agencies in your area and compare the offers.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

File a Complaint

To file a complaint against a seller of travel, use our online form or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).