Bon Voyage! How to Avoid Travel Fraud

  
     
March 30, 2010

 



Summer is coming up and many BC consumers will be looking to book travel to get away from it all. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Protection BC are advising consumers how to spot and avoid the threat of vacation and travel-related fraud.

“We all look forward to our vacations and the last thing on our mind is that we could get caught up in a scam,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “Sadly, vacation scams have cost consumers billions of dollars and it’s important to be an informed consumer when booking travel.”

Last year, the Better Business Bureau received 69 complaints concerning travel agencies, clubs, tours and services regarding things like cancellations of tours, flights, or having inadequate accommodation.

Consumer Protection BC received over 1600 calls in 2009 about travel as they license travel agents in the province. “There are many legitimate travel businesses out there but you should always do your homework,” says Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith of Consumer Protection BC. “It’s important to be aware of your rights and responsibilities as a travel consumer.”

Here are some tips to consider when making your travel arrangements:

Use a licensed travel agent. Travel agents and wholesalers are required to be licensed in BC. Look for the Consumer Protection decal on their business location or icon on their website. Visit www.travelrightsbc.ca to find a licensed travel agency in BC.

Don’t be fooled by fancy web sites, e-mails, flyers or telemarketers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies’ prices. Check out the company with your local Better Business Bureau (www.mbc.bbb.org) and Consumer Protection BC.

Get the details. Ask for the details of any vacation package in writing, including refund and cancellation policies and always check the fine print for all the terms and conditions.

Keep the documentation. Request a copy of your travel services contract and keep all receipts.

Pay with your credit card. It’s a good idea to pay with a credit card as it may offer you some protection. You can also ask whether your card provides you with any travel insurance.

Be very wary around 'free travel' offers. This is actually the slogan of many travel scams. If you see this phrase on a web page, click away and look elsewhere. Nothing is ever free and the benefit you expect to be free, you’ll probably end up paying for in the end or may not even receive.

Most BC consumers aren’t aware of BC’s Travel Assurance Fund. If you booked through a licensed BC travel agent and do not receive the contracted travel services you paid for you may be eligible to receive compensation through the Travel Assurance Fund. Learn more at: www.travelrightsbc.ca

To find out more about your travel rights please contact Consumer Protection BC at 1-888-564-9963 or your local BBB for information about travel fraud.