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By Asanda Mbayimbayi

Digital Intern

Four important things to know before booking that getaway this festive season

This festive season, prioritise the safety, especially financial, of your family. Here are tips for a secure holiday plan.

With the holiday season upon us, scammers are actively seeking opportunities to exploit unsuspecting individuals.

Whether you are making travel plans, booking accommodations, or engaging in online activities like shopping and banking, exercising caution is crucial.

To safeguard yourself from falling prey to scams, consider these four essential tips as you prepare for the festive season:

Old couple checking into a hotel. Picture: iStock
Old couple checking into a hotel. Picture: iStock

Diligent booking

When you are daydreaming about the delicious holiday meals, exciting safari adventures, or relaxing spa experiences, the last thing you want to think about is something going wrong during your vacation. But it’s important to be aware of scams that often target holidaymakers.

One common scam involves fake accommodation listings with super low prices on booking websites. People fall for it, pay the money, and then find out the place they booked either doesn’t exist or was not really available.

According to Help Net Security, many travelers look for online deals, book quickly to not miss out, and are even willing to try new booking websites for a good deal, making them more likely to get scammed.

Anton Gillis, the CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel, suggests a simple rule: if a deal for accommodation seems too good to be true, it probably is. When booking a place, it’s smart to check prices of similar properties in the area.

“Another useful tip is to check whether your hotel or bed and breakfast has excellent reviews across different platforms.

“For example, should someone search for Kruger Gate Hotel they will find that we have a rating of 4.5 on Google reviews which detail our guests’ wonderful experiences on our guided safaris, delicious buffets, the viewing deck overlooking the untouched landscape of the Kruger National Park and friendly staff.

“They will also see that we have just been shortlisted at the GuestRevu GREAT Awards in the 100+ room hotel category for hotels from 37 countries,” explained Gillis.

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Fake scam website. Picture: iStock
Fake scam website. Picture: iStock

Fake websites

Scammers are getting better at creating websites that look real, mimicking familiar ones. Signs of a fake site include blurry logos, typos in the domain or email, and no padlock icon.

Be cautious not to end up on a fake site by avoiding random email links or pop-ups. If you get an unexpected email offering a great deal, don’t click the link.

Instead, manually type the trusted brand’s name into your search engine to ensure you land on the authentic site and not a fraudulent one.

“Whether you are booking a stay or a flight, it’s good advice to do so via a reputable brand’s website. If you’re still unsure, call the hotel, property owner or agent directly.

“Another tip to verify a property’s legitimacy is ask for the full address, and search for it on Google Maps and if you are searching for accommodation via a booking platform, stay with trusted names as they will have vetting processes in place to ensure that all listings are verified and authenticated.

“Finally, when paying, make sure you are using a secure payment system,” further elaborated Gillis.

Travel insurance documents. Picture: iStock
Travel insurance documents. Picture: iStock

Travel insurance

If you have saved up for a big vacation, especially one overseas, you might hesitate to spend more on travel insurance. It can seem like an extra cost after covering flights, accommodation, and other expenses. But think of it as a smart investment to protect the money you can’t get back if something goes wrong.

For short local trips, like a few days in a bush lodge, travel insurance might not be necessary. But if you are traveling abroad, it’s a good idea because international trips usually involve a bigger budget.

“Many travellers might skip out on travel insurance thinking they will not need it, but trip cancellations, lost luggage in between flights and emergency medical expenses happen when you least expect it and can be costly quickly if you’re not prepared.

“Having a travel insurance plan will be worthwhile if your non-refundable holiday expenses exceed more than you can afford to lose, you are holidaying in a remote destination with limited health care resources, you will be travelling through connecting flights to various locations or if you would like to be partially reimbursed should you need to cancel the holiday or depart early because of unforeseen circumstances,” stated Gillis.

Old couple who got scammed. Picture: iStock
Old couple who got scammed. Picture: iStock

Stay secure online

Stay safe on holiday by being cautious with public WiFi, especially in places like airports or hotels.

Check for security features like account registration or password prompts. Avoid sharing sensitive data on unsecured networks to prevent scams.

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