CHICAGO, IL – During this year’s holiday season, lower gas prices are expected to fuel greater travel both on land and in the air, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that consumers need to be on the lookout for travel scams.
Using email, text messages, robo calls, Craigslist and published ads, scammers send great offers for flights, hotels or condos rentals offering luxury accommodations at bargain prices.
“The first thing that should come to mind is that if it sounds too good to be true, look out,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Being a bargain hunter is wise but when there may be thousands of dollars on the line, being careful is smarter.”
In cases where the offer is for accommodations, travelers may arrive at their destination only to find that if the hotel exists, it doesn’t live up to what it’s advertised to be. At best, the luxury hotel turns out to be a dump and amenities promised aren’t provided or aren’t worth the “bargain” price paid. At worst, the hotel reservation never existed. In condo rentals, the traveler arrives to find the condo they paid for either doesn’t exist or doesn’t belong to the scammer who rented it.
Travel scams also include flights at incredibility low prices. A red flag is that a payment needs to be made upfront via credit card, Green Dot Card, or money transfer. After the payment is made, no tickets arrive.
During the holidays, for many reasons, travel plans are made last minute. But there are signs to warn you’re dealing with a scammer:
- You get a cold call, cold-text, or email out of the blue.
- Your contact doesn’t or won’t give you any specifics about the offer.
- The contact is made via a robocall.
The BBB offers these tips as protection against vacation scams:
- Check for full company details in any ads and on websites. Find the company’s name and address then check that they actually exist.
- Keep an eye out for bad spelling and grammar.
- If the company has been recently set-up or changed hands, be suspicious.
- Beware if you are encouraged to pay in cash because they are not accepting credit cards due to high fees.
- Don’t be tempted by price.
- Book directly with an established hotel or reputable travel agent.
- Establish that you are dealing with the property owner or manager.
- Confirm everything offered in writing before payment is made.
- Pay only by credit card.
- Get refund policies in writing.