This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Disclosure, visit this page.

There’s an old saying: You get what you pay for. It seems that saying holds true when it comes to buying travel guidebooks these days, as the New York Times has just uncovered the newest trend in book publishing: artificial intelligence (AI) generated content. RELATED: Cybersecurity and Fraud Expert Shares Tips on How Not to Get Scammed When Traveling

The Times story, A New Frontier for Travel Scammers: A.I.-Generated Guidebooks, is worth the read as I had no idea this was a thing. But thanks to AI-created content (and not just for travel), it appears it’s pretty easy to do.

If you’ve never tried ChatGPT or any of its competitors like Bard, Google’s AI tool, you should play around with it. You will be amazed at what AI can do … and how fast. Spoiler alert: it takes just seconds to write a story or letter or whatever you’re trying to do. It probably took less than a day for the scammers to create good-looking but fraudulent guidebooks.

RELATED: These Are the Latest European Travel Scams to Know Before You Go

The problem with AI-generated content is that it’s not reliable as Amy Kolsky found out. The NY Times featured Amy because she left a scathing one-star review on Amazon after she purchased one of the scam guidebooks for an upcoming trip to France. The New York Times says Amy “visited and typed in a few search terms: travel, guidebook, France. Titles from a handful of trusted brands appeared near the top of the page: Rick Steves, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet. Also among the top search results was the highly rated “France Travel Guide,” by Mike Steves, who, according to an Amazon author page, is a renowned travel writer.”

Amy fell for the fake 100 five-star reviews and the low price ($16.99, compared to $25.49 of a reputable publisher). Amy said when it arrived she was disappointed by the lack of itineraries and repetitive text. She returned it and wrote, “It seemed like the guy just went on the internet, copied a whole bunch of information from Wikipedia and just pasted it in.”

It turns out that the so-called ‘world renowned’ travel writer Mike Steves  was completely manufactured by AI, including his photo, which had visible tells like a partially formed earring, distortions in his clothes and an abstract, blurred background.

So, if you’re going to buy a guidebook for your travels, don’t fall for these scammers. Buy from reputable companies like DK Eyewitness, Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and everyone’s favorite Rick Steves. Just make sure you’re purchasing an updated version because, as you know, a lot has changed since the pandemic.

More Scams to Watch Out For

Want more travel news, tips and deals? Sign up to Johnny Jet’s free newsletter and check out these popular posts: The Travel Gadget Flight Attendants Never Leave Home Without and 12 Ways to Save Money on Baggage Fees. Follow Johnny Jet on MSNFacebook, InstagramPinterest, and YouTube for all of my travel posts.

1 Comment On "WARNING: Scammers Are Selling AI-Generated Travel Guidebooks on Amazon ... and They’re Awful"
  1. Stacey Wittig|

    Yeah, buyer beware! I spent 9 months researching and writing my guidebook. I walked every mile of the walking guide and fact-checked historical references, etc. When AI can’t find the info, it just makes it up!
    Wish I could get 100 5-star reviews on Amazon! I wonder how these scammers did it!
    Link to my WISCONSIN WAY guidebook:

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *