March and April are spring break months for most college students. If you haven't already made your spring break vacation plans, the Better Business Bureau warns you to be cautious. Each year, hundreds of college students get ripped-off by fraudulent spring break offers that promise - but fail to deliver - that much needed "fun in the sun." Travel fraud is a growing problem and college students seem to be attractive targets for dishonest travel operators.
Not all fraudulent offers involve losing money; some are simply misleading. The accommodations may not be what you expected, or what you thought you paid for. Promoters may sell packages that do not include confirmed hotel space or flights. And, even if accommodations and flights are confirmed, the actual cost of the package is sometimes misrepresented when companies fail to inform customers about additional fees.
The Better Business Bureau urges college students to take special precautions when booking spring break trips. Here are a few suggestions:
- Be wary of offers that promise "the moon" for a very low price, or ones that require immediate purchase to lock in the announced rate.
- Before paying anything, request all details of the trip in writing, including total cost, restrictions where applicable, cancellation penalties, and exact names of the airlines and hotels included in the packet.
- If a charter flight is involved, ask for the charter operator's name and address, and then check its registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Consumer Affairs in Washington, DC.
- Be suspicious of vacation certificates that claim you have "won" a hotel stay or resort visit. If you discover you have to pay something to get the promised "free" vacation, look elsewhere.
- Never give credit card information over the phone to a company or person you're not familiar with.
- Use reputable travel agents to plan your trip.
- Contact your Better Business Bureau for a report on the company you're considering using.