Summer has arrived! During this time, we think of the beach, sunscreen and vacation time. To find the perfect destination, you probably get help by searching travel websites or contacting agents to assist with booking flights, hotels and other amenities. Whether these websites or travel agents promise free or huge discounts, con artists are working to get a cut of your cash.
Better Business Bureau serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties wants you to be aware of travel scams:
- Accommodation Fraud. This type of scam can happen when you pay money to book a hotel, cabin, or any form of accommodation and find out that the reservation or residence doesn’t actually exist.
- Vacation Rental Scams. Typically happen when searching for a rental on unsanctioned websites like Craigslist.com. The phony “renter” then contacts the victim who is interested and asks for the deposit to be wired. Unfortunately, when the victim arrives to the location, it turns out that it’s nowhere to be found, it’s actually not for sale, or it looks nothing like the picture online.
- Fraudulent Vacation Packages. These bogus vacation packages can be offered through email, by phone, online, and other various advertisements. It may offer an all-expense-paid trip or a “too good to be true” vacation package deal for a luxurious cruise or resort. However, when the deposit is paid, the victim is left with additional fees they were unaware of or the package has vague terms and conditions. For example, a hotel might offer a “pay 3 nights, stay 5” deal, but doesn’t clearly emphasize that you have to stay in particular accommodations, which may be much more expensive than explained in the offer.
- Phony Airline Tickets. Some websites and agencies sell phony tickets and airline vouchers. It’s safest to book through an accredited travel agent or directly from an airline’s website, and always use a credit card.
- Fake Insurance. Untrustworthy travel agents may try to sell you “travel protection” in place of genuine insurance. If you are offered travel insurance, make sure the company is a licensed insurance underwriter or agency.
- Pay Now, Travel Later. This scam demands payment up front for travel promised later. The idea is to lure consumers into a “club” or an advance payment that is supposed to guarantee future travel at huge discounts. Many times, consumers buy in and when it comes time to book a vacation, they are met with barriers claiming, “sorry that week is already sold out,” or “we’re sold out of the low-priced options, but if you pay to upgrade, you can be accommodated immediately.” After booking, consumers are nickel-and-dimed with a laundry list of extras.
- Travel Sweepstakes. Travelers often fall victim by responding to unsolicited notices that state “you’ve been selected” or have “won a sweepstakes” for a wonderful surprise deal. Consumers should never respond to any offer they have not initiated, especially if it looks too good to be true.
- Travel Like a Travel Agent. This scam involves “card mills” selling travel agent IDs claiming it will let you travel “like a travel agent” at huge discounts. Some claim that you can make money by selling travel from your home and make more money by enrolling others in the program. Usually these operations are nothing but pyramid schemes.
BBB wants you to have a memorable vacation, but encourages you to be careful when planning your trip. For any questions about a company, check their Business Review on bbb.org. Here you can see their time in business, where they are located, if they have any complaints filed against them, and read customer reviews. You can also call BBB at (858) 496-2131 for more information.