Travel Scams
What to Know What to Do

  • Watch out for unsolicited e-mails, phone calls and faxes offering hard-to-believe deals on travel to desirable locations. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • If you are working with a travel agency or vacation planning service, make sure to get all details about the trip in writing. Watch out for vague promises that you’ll be staying at “five-star” resorts or riding on “luxury” cruise ships at cut-rate prices. Get as much information as you can, including the total cost, any restrictions that may apply, and the exact names of the promised airlines and hotels.

  • “Free” is usually not free. Often, these scams are just an opportunity for a scammer to get your credit card information by asking you to “verify” your eligibility or to pay a “processing fee.” You should never have to pay to collect a prize.

  • Check out any travel agency before giving them money. A Better Business Bureau search is a good first step. Also make sure that the company is registered with the American Society of Travel Agents.

  • Watch out for “travel clubs” that offer “free” memberships. Often these services do little except charge your credit card every month and provide few, if any, benefits.

  • Use your credit card, not a debit card, when purchasing a trip. If you feel that you’ve been scammed, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.

  • Beware of any offers that involve high-pressure sales pitches that urge you to commit “right now” because the offer will “expire” otherwise. For example, Timeshare seminars are often fraudulent ways to get consumers to sign up for timeshares by featuring “free” lunches or “free” vacations.

  • If you’ll be traveling overseas, call your credit card company and bank to let them know what countries you’ll be visiting and when you plan to return. This way they can be on the alert for any suspicious charges from a scammer that gets your credit card information while you’re on the road or after your get back home.

  • Ask questions and be cautious. Read all of the fine print carefully. Companies need to tell you how your trip will operate. Even if they make their policies difficult to read, look them over before sending any money. If you can’t get answers to your questions, avoid using that company.

  • Demand a contract in writing, and read it. Confirm that it includes every cost, including fees. Take the time to understand the purpose and amount of each fee. Some common hidden fees to watch out for: International Departure and Arrival Taxes, Processing Fees, Peak Week Surcharges, Late Booking Fees, Departure City Surcharges, Travel Insurance, Fuel Surcharges.

  • Be aware of cancellation policies. Before sending any money, you should know how much you will lose if you need to cancel.

  • Avoid any company that mandates arbitration for disputes. Don’t give up your legal rights.