Unlike most products, travel services usually have to be paid for before they are delivered. This creates opportunities for disreputable individuals and companies to take advantage of unsuspecting travellers. Some travel packages turn out to be very different from what was presented or what the consumer expected. Some don’t even materialize at all!
You should always use due diligence when booking your vacation but sometimes it’s easy to be caught out by surprise calls. Here are some of the more common ways that tricksters may try to fool you into parting with your money.
The art of surprise. If you receive a cold call offer by phone or mail for a free or extremely low-priced vacation trip to a popular destination there are a few things you should look for:
These are all methods that can be less than legit. First the call out of the blue designed to catch you unaware and more open to suggestion. Then the offer that is too good to resist followed by the added pressure to buy quickly before the offer is gone forever. It’s difficult to think properly when under so much pressure and almost impossible to think of the correct questions to ask. The marketers know this and will slowly reel you in.
May be the offer is legitimate but the only way to know for sure is to take the time to investigate it properly, so proceed cautiously.
Ask for written information to be sent to you; any legitimate travel company will be happy to oblige. If they don’t have a brochure, ask for a day or two to think it over; most bona fide deals that are good today will still be good two days from now. If they say no to both requests, this probably isn’t the trip for you.
Never give your credit card details over the phone until you are absolutely 100% sure that everything is above board and you’ve found a trust worthy company. Find the address of the company and research them through the Better Business Bureau. Find out exactly what the trip entails, the airlines that you’ll be taking and any hotels that you are due to stay in. Check the hotel out to make sure that it’s actually been built and that ‘sea-view’ isn’t looking out towards a building site.
If they tell you that you need to pay straight away but can’t leave for at least two months then walk away. This is the deadline for disputing a credit card charge is 60 days, and most scam artists know this.
If you are told that you’ve won a free vacation, ask if you have to buy something else in order to get it. Some packages have promoted free air fare, as long as you buy expensive hotel arrangements. Others include a free hotel stay, but no air fare.
If you are seriously considering the vacation offer and are confident you have established the full price you will pay, compare the offer to what you might obtain elsewhere. Frequently, the appeal of free air fare or free accommodations disguises the fact that the total price is still higher than that of a regular package tour.
Get a confirmed departure date, in writing, before you pay anything. Be sceptical of any promises that an acceptable date will be arranged later. If the package involves standby, wait-list travel, or a reservation that can only be provided much later, ask if your payment is refundable if you want to cancel, and don’t pay any money you can’t afford to lose.
If the destination is a beach resort, ask the seller how far the hotel is from the beach. Then ask the hotel themselves.
Determine the complete cost of the trip in dollars, including all service charges, taxes, processing fees, etc.
Nowadays it’s very easy to go online and do a quick search to determine if an offer is legitimate or not. It’s even easier to look for your own travel discounts and offers using travel comparison sites such as Travel Skunk that scour through the offers available from multiple trustworthy agencies, so why not give it a try.