There are some travel deals out there these days causing even veteran observers to do double-takes. But some travel deals aren’t deals at all. Plain and simple, they’re scams, aimed at separating you from your cash, often with nothing in return.
Travel is hugely popular with scammers. Estimates suggest that vacation swindles cost North American consumers more than $10-billion per year, making travel the fourth most common type of consumer fraud. Part of the attraction for scammers is that many travel products require a down payment before the product or service is provided.
The bottom line is that if it sounds too good to be true (You’ve won a FREE TRIP!) it most likely is. Legitimate travel companies can’t afford to give away their product. Following are some suggestions to help you evaluate travel offers and avoid being victimized by a travel scam:
- Eyes Wide Open
Be extremely sceptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip – you may not be able to find them when the time comes.
- Not-So-Fine Print
Some offers impose so many requirements and restrictions, such as black-out dates and companion fees, that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own or used a travel agent.
- Check ‘em Out
If you’ve never heard of the company offering you that great travel deal, you can run your own background check. You can do this by searching for the company on the Better Business Bureau’s website or by checking to see if they are members of theAssociation of Canadian Travel Agencies. It’s also worth Googling the company name or the offer that’s tempting you – you may be able to learn from the experiences of others.
- Facts First
Get all the details in writing about any trip prior to payment. This includes the total price; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about all components of the package.
- Privacy Please
Never give out your credit card number unless you initiate the transaction and are confident about the company with which you are doing business.
- Common Sense Counts
Why would you need to call a fee-based 900-number to book a vacation? If you insist on replying to an e-mail or calling a 900-number in response to a travel solicitation, understand the charges and know the risks.
- Run, Don’t Walk
High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require you to disclose your income, are red flags to be heeded. If the product is so good, why is the sell so hard?
- Use Protection
Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. If you live in B.C., Ontario or Quebec, book your travel with a registered travel seller, and your investment will be protected by a fund set up for that purpose.
If you think you’ve been scammed, contact your local Better Business Bureau or the ministry that handles consumer services in your province. You can also contact the Canadian Competition Bureau by visiting their website at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca or calling them at 1-800-348-5358. The Bureau investigates complaints of business misrepresentation, including deceptive telemarketing and advertisements.
Photo Credit: mict