Just like any other component of business, the travel industry has its own share of scams. Extending far beyond simple bait-and-switch pricing models, these ploys can trick you into spending more than what you should pay — or rob you of funds altogether. It’s wise to educate yourself on red flags to watch for, along with the best ways to deal with potential fraud:
The scam: A too-good-to-be-true deal.
Travel discount sites can offer some pretty crazy deals. “Buy this six-night all-inclusive stay for $399 for the next 12 hours,” they’ll say, tempting you into a quick decision. What they won’t tell you is all the hoops you need to jump through to put this “deal” to use.
Your plan: To sort the scams from the real thing, make sure you read the fine print before you pull the trigger. Also, make sure the company advertising the deal is legitimate by checking its rating with the Better Business Bureau and reading reviews.
The scam: You “won” a free vacation.
You receive a mailer that states you won an amazing travel package — just call a 1-800 number to redeem your prize. But when you call, the company demands you pay a huge fee to get your hands on your prize.
Your plan: You are probably dealing with a scam. You shouldn’t have to pay to find out more about your prize, nor should you pay for anything over the phone. Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company before you act.
The scam: Your car rental seems so cheap, until you get to the rental counter.
Car rental agencies make more money when you buy their pricey insurance, but you might not need it if your own insurance policy offers rental car coverage. Also, many credit cards offer rental car coverage when you use your card to pay for the purchase.
Unfortunately, car rental agencies will go to great lengths to persuade you to buy additional coverage. They’ve even been known to lie and say their coverage is mandatory.
Your plan: While some countries (such as Mexico) do require renters to pay for government-mandated coverage, most additional coverage is voluntary. Make sure you know the rules of the country you’re visiting.