CHICAGO, IL – Summertime is travel time and also the season for vacation scams. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns travelers that vacation clubs, free vacation offers, travel points and airline miles are just a few ways that scammers are trying to rip off consumers.
In the latest vacation scheme, scammers are purportedly stating they are fromÂ Hilton Hotels. Scammers are calling consumers with “free” vacation offers, and in return taking their personal and credit card information which then sets them up to be ripped-off. In 2014, the BBB serving Chicago and Northern Illinois received 123 complaints about travel agencies and 13 complaints about travel clubs.
“Vacation scams are very common, especially in the summertime,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is important for consumers to do careful research on a company before giving them money or providing them with your personal or financial information.”
Meagan Lizzo of Spring Grove, IL got scammed by a vacation club. She says, “We had just gotten married and the presentation sounded great. We paid $2000 up front and then we were supposed to be able to select different locations where we could stay at a very low cost. There was a $398 annual fee but they said we would only have to pay the fee in years where we used the membership. We tried but were never able to actually get a place and time that were available. They charged us the fee anyway even though we never went anywhere. I even let them know about medical expenses that I had that kept us from paying. They have put us up for collection.”
The BBB recommends the following when planning a vacation:
- Check for full company details in any ads and on websites. Find the company’s name and address then check that they actually exist.A physical address is one way to determine if it is an established business.
- Keep an eye out for bad spelling and grammar. This is a common sign of scammers, especially those from overseas.
- If the company has been recently set-up or changed hands, be suspicious. New businesses or businesses with new names may indicate a lack of finances or established business practices.
- Don’t be tempted by price. Beware if you are encouraged to pay in cash because they are not accepting credit cards due to high fees. Not accepting credit cards can indicate a shaky financial situation.Â It also does not give you any recourse if you wish a refund.
- Book directly with an established hotel or reputable travel agent.Find an accredited agent atÂ www.bbb.org.
- Confirm in writing everything offered before payment is made. If you’re not sure whether a website is showing you the total price, call the hotel and ask about a “resort fee” or any other mandatory charge. A resort fee may cover use of fitness facilities or internet access.
- Pay only by credit card and get refund policies in writing. It gives you more protection than paying by cash or check. If you don’t get what you paid for, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company.
- Don’t give your account number to any business until you’ve verified its reputation. You can verify its reputation by checking out the BBB rating and customer reviews by using ourÂ search.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.