Avoid Travel Scam Spam
(September 2, 2003)
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), travel fraud costs American consumers over $12 billion a year.
Good travel deals are always tempting. After all, paying less for a vacation can mean more money for touring, souvenirs, or for another vacation.
Even though there are some great legitimate travel deals out there, it
always pays to be on the lookout for scams. To help you avoid the scam spam, here are some things to watch for and avoid.
If you do purchase travel always do the following:
- You've heard the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true." Therefore, when you get an e-mail or call touting a one-week Caribbean vacation for $100 understand there are probably 100 hidden expenses attached to it. You may find that the offer requires you to book through a specific, more expensive travel agency or that you are required to bring a companion along at full price.
- If you get an email or phone call saying, "Congratulations you may have won a free vacation" for a contest you didn't enter, beware. Often these deceptive advertisers request that you call a "900" number -- understand this is not free and you might end up with a huge phone bill.
- One of the costliest travel scams involves telemarketers calling to tell you you've won a free vacation. However, there's a catch, they need your credit card to process the vacation. Hang up! Never give your credit card out to an unsolicited caller.
- Don't be pressured into "limited time" offers. If you are pressured to make an immediate decision because there are only, "a few of these bargain deals left," just say no. This is a sure sign of a scam. Remember, there are always travel deals to be found without pressure tactics.
- Beware of the timeshare trap. You might be offered a free trip, but you will be forced into enduring a long high-pressure sales pitch for timeshare plans during your stay.
While these simple tactics will help prevent most fraud, they are not a guarantee. For more information, explore the following sites:
- Ask for the company's address and professional affiliations. If they hesitate and state they cannot give out that information, do not book with them. Keep in mind, the less you are able to find out about a company, the more you should worry.
- Look out for hidden costs. The fine print can have you paying for everything from transportation to a cruise ship departure point to port fees and hotel taxes. Know exactly what's included and get it in writing.
- Be aware of blackouts. You may find the promised price is only available
during off-peak times.
- Confirm the reservations. If your package includes transportation and hotel stays, call those companies directly to confirm the arrangements have been made.
- Always pay with a credit card. If the deal is a fraud or the legitimate company goes out of business, paying with a credit card allows you to dispute the charges if a travel operator leaves you high and dry.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -- FTC's website offers a list of recommendations for dealing with telemarketing travel fraud. The site includes numbers to call if you suspect you have been ripped-off.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) -- Great travel fraud tips listed on this website.
American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)-- ASTA' site offers resources to sort through and cross reference dubious travel offers. You can search for members in your area by zip code and check out the Travel Information and Resources page for great tips.
National Fraud Information Center -- Website offers detailed tips and advice regarding online travel fraud.
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