Travel Scams: You Don't Get Something for Nothing
Beware of travel companies that misrepresent information about the bookings and transportation costs. For example, a company that offers an unbelievably low airfare may make up the loss in another way such as overpriced hotel accomodations. In most cases, one should assume that “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The following tips from the U.S. Department of Consumer Affairs can save you from a disappointing vacation.
Don't be taken by solicitations by postcard, letter, or phone claiming you've won a free trip or can get discounts on hotels and airfares. These offers usually don't disclose the hidden fees involved, for example, deposits, surcharges, excessive handling fees or taxes.
Some travel scams require you to purchase a product to get a trip that is “free” or “two-for-one.” You'll end up paying for the “free trip” or more for the product than the trip is worth, and the two-for-one deal might be more expensive than if you had arranged a trip yourself by watching airfare deals.
Be wary of travel offers which ask you to redeem vouchers or certificates from out-of-state companies. Their offers are usually valid only for a limited time and on a space-available basis. The hotels are often budget rooms and very uncomfortable. The company charges you for the trip in advance, but will the company still be in business when you're ready to take the trip?
Check the reputation of any travel service you use, especially travel clubs offering discounts on their services in exchange for an annual fee. Contact your state or local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau.
Request copies of a travel club's or agent's brochures and contracts before purchasing your ticket. Don't rely on oral promises. Find out about cancellation policies and never sign contracts that have blank or incomplete spaces.
Never give out your credit card number to a club or company with which you're unfamiliar or which requires you to call 900 numbers for information.
Don't feel pressured by requests for an immediate decision or a statement that the offer is only good “if you act now.” Don't deal with companies that request payment in advance or that don't have escrow accounts where your deposit is held.
Research cut-rate offers, especially when dealing with travel consolidators who might not be able to provide your tickets until close to your departure date.
You can protect yourself by using a credit card to purchase travel services. If you don't get what you paid for, contact the credit card issuer and you might be able to get the charges reversed. Be aware that you have 60 days to dispute a charge.