How To Avoid Travel Scams

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Is there anything more exciting than the prospect of a sweet deal on an exotic travel package?

As you ponder the many indulgences available on such a dream vacation, who could blame you for losing focus on the more practical aspects of the trip. Scam artists certainly won’t … In fact, they’re counting on it.

Travel Guides

Image by Evil Yoda via Flickr

As with all consumer rip-offs, there are unsavory “travel package” operators out there willing to play on your emotions in order to get into your wallet.

One of the most common travel scams is the cruise or vacation package offer that doesn’t provide complete information until after your payment is secured. Predictably, the “details” include restrictions, exclusions and black-out dates that dramatically reduce the trip’s true value.

The ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) recommends the following precautions when considering travel package offers:

  • Retain a healthy dose of skepticism. Be extremely skeptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip.
  • Do your homework. Some offers might sound great on the surface, but be sure to read the fine-print. Certain offers impose so many restrictions that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own.
  • Run a “background check.” You should vet the companies from which you purchase travel services. You can do this by checking to see if they are members of ASTA or by researching the company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, or at ComplaintsBoard.com or RipoffReport.com.
  • Get the facts. You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. Once you have the complete details of your trip, contact the hotel and transportation companies on your own to make certain the reservations have been made.
  • Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income are red flags to be heeded.
  • Protect yourself. Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered.

Another proven technique for avoiding travel rip-offs is to use reputable guidebooks (the “Time Out” series is especially informative) to research the techniques commonly used by local scam artists. With a little reading, you’ll be able to quickly identify and avoid shady characters worldwide.

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