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May 03, 2008
Travel Bargains Often Scams

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Jim Rink (313) 336-1513


Although many travel packages are from legitimate suppliers, a small number may be from dealers out to rip off consumers.

Travel scams use many techniques:

  • Vacation certificates. Many packages fall short of their promises, providing poor quality lodging and limited availability.
     
  • Free trips. Notification that you've been "selected to receive a free trip" may include hidden costs or require expensive purchases.
     
  • Multi-day travel packages. When costs are figured separately, travelers may find their "savings" were expensive.
     
  • High-pressure sales tactics. An overly aggressive approach requiring an on-the-spot-decision is characteristic of scam artists. Always ask for detailed, written information and compare it to the promises you've been made. Next, contact the airline, hotel or cruise line directly to compare deals.

Avoid being a travel scam victim:

  • Be skeptical. When in doubt, book your vacation through a well-established travel agency.
     
  • Use caution before releasing financial information by phone. Release credit card and checking account info only when you initiate a transaction or you've verified the travel offer is legitimate.
     
  • Request full disclosure of the cancellation policy. Many states allow several days to cancel after receiving a certificate.
     
  • Ask about extra charges. Does your "free trip" include port taxes or service charges?
     
  • Insist on written verification before you book. Read the small print.
     
  • Inquire about a consumer protection plan. Professional organizations such as the U.S. Tour Operator Association or the American Society of Travel Agents help to protect consumers.
     
  • Reject a travel "prize" that requires a payment. Prizes should not include fees or processing charges.
     
  • Investigate the vendor. Contact the local Better Business Bureau or your state attorney general


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