Being a savvy shopper is important to get the best value for your money. But with every “great” deal it is important that you understand what exactly you are buying. There are tons of retailers like Groupon and LivingSocial apps which offer super discounted travel packages for unbelievable prices, but avoid these common pitfalls to avoid being scammed or disappointed.
If you have been offered a great bargain on a cruise or a 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, a scam operator 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 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 some time and money in the long run.
To help you avoid becoming a victim of a travel scam, here are some suggestions when evaluating travel offers:
- Stay away from travel offers that sound “too good to be true”, particularly if you have been solicited by phone or have received a postcard or certificate in the mail.
- Never give your credit card number or any information about your bank accounts over the phone to a solicitor unless you initiate the transaction or call. You should feel confident about the company with which you are doing business with.
- Get the complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. These details should include the total cost (including taxes, port charges, service fees, and surcharges), terms and conditions, restrictions, cancellation penalties, if any, and specific information about all components of the package.
- 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 cautious with companies which require that you wait at least 60 days to take you trip or require that you select several dates of departure for your trip.
Most Common Travel Scams
Scammers will find ways to contact you through direct mail, social media or enticing emails luring you for an “unbelievable” promotion. In reality, these types of vacations often end up with poorly disclosed fees or fake. Here are the most common travel scams that we hear about.
You just won a “free vacation”, but must pay a fee first
If you can’t remember how you were able to win a prize, most likely this is a scam. Make sure you understand all charges and fees associated with the prize. Often these awards are attached to a variety of fees, participation in a tour/ vacation club or seminars with pressure filled presentations. Find out all the details before you commit.
When the caller wants your credit card number
Scammers will always try to lead the conversation and pressure you to hand over your credit card. Make sure to receive paperwork before you do. TIP: Most scams require you to make rash decisions quickly. Grab their phone number and say you feel comfortable if you can call them back. Most scam artists prefer not to give any information about themselves.
They entice you with general descriptive words — but can’t — give you specifics
They promise a stay at a “five-star” resort or a cruise on a “luxury” ship, however they cannot tell you exactly which property or cruise line. Make sure that you know all the details before anything else happens. Make sure to always get it in writing to protect yourself. TIP: Find out the hotel’s address and check out their website for reviews and photos.
You’re pressured to sign up for a travel club that requires you to sell their memberships
As soon as you hear that you must sign up with monthly dues – run out the door. Travel clubs often have high membership fees and limited choice of destinations or travel dates.
You get an automated call