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15 Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them)

Shady people love to take advantage of tourists, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to become a victim. Here are some of the most common travel scams around the world. As travelers, it is easy to think that we are smart enough to avoid getting ripped off. But, the truth is, it happens to the best of us. Including me!

From getting ridiculously overcharged on cab rides to unknowingly revealing credit card information, travel scams exist the world over. While it is nearly impossible to know when you will be scammed....



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Travel Scams And The Unsuspecting Traveler

Fraudulent travel promotions and offers consistently make it to the top of the list of complaints that the FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, receives every year. These scams are relatively low cost to run, but they lead to expensive mistakes and disappointments for numerous consumers or would be travelers.

Unsolicited travel offers arrive at many homes and businesses every day. The offers arrive by telephone, e-mail, snail mail, and fax. Generally, the offers are fraudulent travel promotions sent or called by unscrupulous travel promoters.

Disguised to look familiar and similar to companies that the consumer might have contact with or knowledge of, the fraudulent offers look legitimate at first glance. Faxes, letters, and e-mails with letterheads designed to look similar to the company the individual is working for further encourage the consumer into thinking the offer is legitimate.

The travel packages are enticing enough to encourage people to act quickly before they have time to think about it or talk to others about it. Anxious to take advantage of the good deal, people often respond immediately. This is exactly what the phony promoter of the travel package wants.

Vacations are offered with deluxe accommodations that include air conditioning and king size beds, free meals, special outings, such as cruises or casino trips, free spa packages, and other assorted perks. Consumers are enticed to place a deposit to hold the offer and its wonderful components. A full refund is offered in the event that they cancel; but then, they are told the deposit is non-refundable. Customers have unwittingly paid for the purchase in full, but never receive the tickets or paperwork for the trip.

The best way to avoid a travel scam is to follow a few simple rules. Consumers need to know what signs to look for to discern the legitimacy of the offer. Likewise, consumers need to follow their instinct and realize that if it looks and sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. People are in the business of making money. If it appears that they are giving the trip away, then how is the company making any money? Look at the following tips and use them to guide you when planning a vacation.

How To Avoid A Travel Scam

Always deal with a reputable company. Select a company that you, or someone you know, have had personal contact with before. Ask for the company's full name, address, and phone number. 

Contact the Better Business Bureau where you live and where the company is from. If there is a history of complaints, steer clear. 

Ask to receive the details of the trip in writing prior to payment. If the company refuses, then do not pay. 

Verify your reservations and the level of accommodations by acquiring the telephone number and calling to make a few inquiries. 

Ask for specifics. If the agent uses the word "luxury," ask exactly what that means. One person's idea of luxury may simply be a soft bed and a full bathroom, while most vacationers are probably thinking hot tub, king size bed, cable television, etc. 

Use a credit card to make your purchase. If the vacation package does not meet your expectations, you may be able to dispute the charges. 

Never deal with a company whose representative uses high-pressure tactics. For example, if you don't sign on now, it won't be available later. 

Don't believe something that seems too good to be true. If the trip is advertised at well below market cost, then it simply isn't legitimate. 

Never deal with a company that insists on verifying your identification with additional credit card and social security numbers. 

Avoid any offers for fantastic vacations that require overnight service for payment. 

Avoid responding to unsolicited offers for vacations. Reputable companies can rely on word of mouth to acquire business.

How Travel Scams Rack Up The Price

Hidden fees that are not revealed until after the consumer commits with a payment. Suddenly, extra fees are added to the cost for incidentals and upgrades that were not mentioned previously. 

Hidden fees that do not materialize until the traveler arrives at the destination. Once the customer arrives at the destination, the desk clerk might notify them of additional charges that were not previously mentioned.
How Travel Scams Deceive

Some of the offer is unavailable to the traveler until after they attend a special presentation. Many times these presentations involve sitting through lengthy timeshare overviews and sales pitches. 

Refunds are promised for cancellations, but refunds are rarely processed. 

Many details are often left out of the sales pitch. 

Sometimes, the unscrupulous travel marketer will actually lie about the actual components of the offer in an attempt to deceive customers and entice them into signing up for the vacation package. 

Travel marketers use vocabulary that hints at something, but never comes right out and says it. For example, "being selected to receive a trip" only means that you will be given the opportunity to pay for the trip. Moreover, words such as blackout dates and subject to availability will create loopholes that lead to the unavailability of the vacation package that the consumer has paid for in advance.

In most cases, using a reputable travel agent, who has a good record with the Better Business Bureau and some evidence of being around for a while, is the best way to go to schedule a vacation. When in doubt, ask questions.

Copyright © 2006, Ian White Access 2000 Pty Ltd

Author Ian White helps home owners match with like minded home lovers in your area to care for your home, gardens and pets while you take a vacation. HouseCarers.com House Sitting Directory offers free membership and confidential matching services for home owners. Exchange free accommodation for live-in house and pet care.

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