As with any major purchase, when things sound too good to be true, they might need a little more investigation. Many travel scams exists to lure potential customers in to spending money only to not live up to expectations. To protect yourself and your family, as well as your investment, here are some tips to look out for the most common travel scams:
- Name Discrepancy Between Provider and Seller
A separate agent or telemarketer is often utilized for the sale. Their loyalty lies primarily with the vendor who issues payment, not the consumer. Differing names may also signal the vendor's reluctance to claim responsibility for any negative outcome.
- Hotel or Airline Information Withheld
Online travel bidding sites will give vendor information upon bid acceptance, this is a known consumer risk. A travel agent who withholds hotel and airline specifics during the booking process, however, raises an immediate red flag. Continue your travel search elsewhere.
- Customer Payment Without a Contract in Writing
Payments for upcoming trips are usually made before you travel and you always merit a written contract for the services purchased. Any vendor with a worthy reputation will make their travel proposal clear in a written format.
- Unsolicited Calls or Texts
These are the offers the consumer does not ask for. Never conduct business with an unfamiliar company without investigating the company thoroughly. Contact your local branch of the Better Business Bureau, as well as searching online for related scams or complaints.
- Travel Agent Certification Offers
A common scam is to offer consumers travel agent certification, implying the promise of free travel offers. Though genuine offers exist for already established professionals, they are not given to everyday consumers. A certification fee is often requested and indicative of a scam.
- "Limited Time Only" Travel Offers
Standard travel offers and airfare deals come with expiration dates and deadlines. Discount deals on immediate booking should be viewed with suspicion, especially if departure is scheduled for 60 days or more ahead of time resulting in difficulty should you later decide to challenge the credit card charges at your bank.
- Overuse of the Words "Free" and "Complimentary"
These words are intended to entice you but there is always an agenda lurking beneath the surface. You may be required to sit through a time-share sales presentation or made to feel as if you should purchase something; these are common tactics used on consumers. If something seems to good to be true, it very likely is.
- Telephone Only Booking
There are responsible travel agents who conduct business exclusively online, but beware vendors who insist on booking arrangements by telephone only. Ask the basic questions. If there is reluctance to explain their telephone only policy, give you a written contract or a business address, seek your travel booking elsewhere.
"Free Vacation" Offers
A reputable business will not ask you to pay for something you have won. Requests for various taxes and fees are common, as are time-share sales pitches and the purchase of vacation extras. Never finalize an agreement before investigating any additional costs.
- Hidden Split Pricing
The term "split pricing" refers to below-market charges and the addition of charges thought to have been included in the original price quote. Scammers often hide the true pricing in small print. An honest travel firm will be clear regarding all upgrade options.