MADISON, Wis. -

A new vacation scam is making the rounds. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is asking consumers planning a vacation to be on the lookout for travel and rental deals that are too good to be true. DATCP advises consumers to be skeptical of free vacation claims.
Several consumers have received postcards in the mail telling them they’ve been selected for a special vacation offer, according to DATCP.
“Watch out for fake property rental postings on online classified sites, as well as unsolicited calls or emails promising free or low-cost vacations,” said Sandy Chalmers, division administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection.
“Though it may sound like an unbelievably great deal, it’s most likely a scam.”
Travel-related scams are a big business nationwide. Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission announced an international sweep to stop fraudulent operations involving timeshare resale services and travel prizes.
DATCP recommends shopper look out for the following red flags:
• You see rental property advertised online, but the detail are sketchy and the “owner” claims to be overseas. They ask for deposits by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
• You “won a free vacation,” but you have to pay some fees first. A legitimate company will not ask you to pay for a prize.
• A prize company wants your credit card number to “verify” you identify for your prize.
• You are offered free or discounted travel by robocall or an unsolicited call, text or email.
Consumers should also be on the lookout for high-pressure pitches for travels clubs, according to DATCP. Travel clubs are paid membership-based companies that claim to offer significant discounts on travel opportunities. They often have high membership fees and complicated cancellation policies and provide questionable value for the money, according to DATCP.
To safely shop for travel, consumers should:
• Get recommendations from family and friends about companies.
• Carefully research vacation rentals you find in online ads.
• Book travel expenses by credit card to have more protection.
• Beware of resort fees.
• Confirm all arrangements personally if you use a travel company to book.