Spring Break Shouldn’t Break the Bank: BBB Warns Consumers to be Wary of Vacation Scams

February 10, 2017

DENVER, CO — Spring break is just around the corner, and students and families are preparing and planning to enjoy the time off. During this high-travel period, budgets can be tight, and travelers may seek deals on flights and accommodations.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises students and families to be skeptical of travel deals that seem too good to be true. Many online sites offer travel deals. BBB advises prospective travelers to deal only with reputable sites when booking travel, and to carefully check reservation policies and other fine print before booking deals. Package deals may be touted as “all-inclusive,” but be sure you understand exactly what is included.

BBB offers the following tips to make sure your trip doesn’t fall flat.

  • Book through a reliable travel agent or travel site. Check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or find a BBB Accredited Business. Accredited Businesses must adhere to the BBB’s 8 standards of trust, requiring that they advertise honestly, be transparent and honor promises.
  • Get details about your trip in writing. Be sure to confirm the details, such as total cost, any restrictions, flights, hotel reservations and car rental. Don’t rely only on the receipt or confirmation email; call to confirm all arrangements in advance.
  • Pay with a credit card. Paying by credit card offers the most consumer protection, should you need to challenge the charges.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for particular perils which are specific conditions under which it will pay claims, such as trip cancellations or medical emergencies. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association maintains a list of licensed travel insurance companies. Certain travel companies have different policies and levels of coverage based on whether you purchase the car rental, flight or hotel.  Be sure to shop around and read the terms and conditions before purchasing.
  • Use caution when considering deals. If a deal or package offers a lot for a very low price, be wary. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If a site is offering a hotel deal, take time to call the actual hotel to verify that the company offering the deal has a relationship with the hotel and to make sure the room exists.
  • Be wary of claims you “won” a trip. Unsolicited mail, email and websites saying that you have “won a trip” can be scams. If you’ve really won a free vacation, a legitimate business won’t ask you to pay any upfront or processing fees. 

Parents and other relatives should also be on guard if they get calls purportedly coming from students stranded in distant locations, as this can be a scam as well. This so-called “grandparent scam,” usually starts with a call from someone claiming to be a person you know (often a child or grandchild), who is stranded or needs money to get out of jail or deal with another emergency.

If you get such a call, resist any request to send money immediately. Ask for a contact phone number, and then check with other relatives to determine if there is indeed a chance a family member is stranded. A request for you to send money through any alternative payment methods, such as a wire transfer or prepaid card, is often a scam.