Travel Scams

How to Avoid Travel Scams

If you have been offered a great bargain on a cruise or resort vacation, but you cannot seem to get all the details unless you pay the company first, you may be dealing with a travel scam.

If you have been offered a great bargain on a cruise or resort vacation, but you cannot seem to get all the details unless you pay the company first, you may be dealing with a travel scam.

Typically, scam operators won't give you full and complete information in writing until after you've given them a credit card number, certified check or money order. Once you do get further information, there will be restrictions and conditions which may make it more expensive, or even impossible, to take your trip.

While getting a refund is sometimes possible, it's better to avoid paying anything in the first place. While there is the remote chance that you might miss a legitimate deal, chances are you will save yourself time, money and aggravation in the long run.

To help avoid being a victim of a travel scam, the American Society of Travel advisors provides the following suggestions when evaluating travel offers:

Be extremely skeptical about postcard and phone solicitations which say you've been selected to receive a fabulous vacation;

You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. These details should include the total price, including all administrative fees and service charges; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about all components of the package;

If you insist on calling a 900 number in response to a travel solicitation, understand the charges and know the risks;

Walk away from high pressure sales presentations which don't allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income;

Be suspicious of companies which require that you wait at least 60 days to take your trip.

If you think you've been scammed, contact your local Better Business Bureau, your local or state Consumer Affairs Office, state attorney general's office, or refer to ASTA's procedures for filing a complaint against an ASTA-member company.

Often you will find advertisements for travel packages to major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 or the World Series. Many of these offers are legitimate, but there have been instances in the past where consumers have been scammed by unscrupulous vendors who never had tickets to the event.

Every year, reports are heard from sports fans whose travel plans were ruined by a questionable offer that was too good to be true. A good travel advisor knows which questions to ask and what to look for in a legitimate sports travel package. Many people aren't aware, for instance, that under the U.S. government's Truth in Ticketing rules, a tour operator advertising a Super Bowl travel package that includes a flight and game tickets must have the game tickets in hand or have a written contract for the tickets before they can advertise.

Before you buy a sports travel package, be sure to carefully read the tour brochure and any other solicitation material and pay by credit card, when possible, so you can be protected under federal fair credit practice laws.

Beware of offers from companies that sell questionable travel advisor/travel agent credentials. Consumers may be led to believe that such cards allow them to travel at free or reduced rates.

Organizations making these offers are known throughout the travel industry as "card mills" because they routinely offer credentials by the thousands in the form of an identification card that is sold for a significant fee. In turn, these cards would presumably be accepted by every segment of the travel industry. Many suppliers of travel, however, do not accept them.

For more information, see What Consumers and Consumer Protection Agencies Should Know About Travel Industry Card Mills by the American Society of Travel Advisors.