A dream vacation can turn into a nightmare if you're...

A dream vacation can turn into a nightmare if you're the victim of a travel scam. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/igor_kell

Vacation time is about escaping your worries for a little while. But if you get snookered in a travel scam while vacationing, your unintended destination could be the drama zone.

Here’s what to look out for.

Book your trip safely

Secure travel starts with secure booking. If you're making plans over the internet, make sure you’re working with a reputable online company. If you've never heard of the website you're about to book with, do some research to see how long it’s been around.

“If it just popped up a few weeks ago, don’t book your travel through it,” says Michael Reitblat, CEO of Forter, a fraud prevention company in Manhattan. Legitimate e-commerce sites use encryption, which protects your data by scrambling it in transit. To be sure a site is encrypted, look in your web browser for a lock symbol next to the site's URL.

Beware vacation rental rip-offs

Steven Weisman, attorney and author of "The Truth About Avoiding Scams," says smaller rental sites can be used by scam artists to snag unsuspecting victims. “The listing looks legitimate, because it’s often a real online listing copied by the thief, who puts in his or her name and contact information,” he says. He points out two red flags — the price is unusually low, and you’re asked to wire money. You wire the money and hear nothing further.” Never make a payment by wire transfer or cashier’s check.

Use credit and debit cards carefully

Use bank ATMs only. Private ATMs are more vulnerable to tampering by scam artists who could install a card reader, points out Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer of BeenVerified.com, an online background check platform. Better still, use a credit card rather than a debit card. He says, “If it is compromised, the money is not coming directly from your account; your exposure to financial liability is more limited.”

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