Tips to Avoid 6 Common Travel Scams

Tips to Avoid 6 Common Travel Scams

By Samantha, selected from DivineCaroline

Travel season is heating up along with the weather, which means scammers  are  bringing their A-game in hopes of separating you from your money.  Whether  you’re taking the kids to Disneyland, spending a romantic week  in Aruba, or  heading to Duluth for your cousin’s wedding, you need to  know what to look for  to protect yourself.

The fact is, travel scams vary widely, from pickpockets to legal resort  charges—don’t assume that  legitimate businesses can’t legally scam you, because  many can and  will. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that Americans are   tricked out of $10 billion per year in travel-related scams. From shady  cabbies  to too-good-to-be-true vacation packages, here’s what to be  aware of:

Time Share Scams

If you live in the U.S. you’ve probably gotten calls for a free or   incredibly cheap vacation to Mexico or some similar warm destination  with the  caveat that you sit through a time-share presentation.  Seems reasonable, and who wouldn’t  want a vacation home for which they  don’t have to pay full price or maintain?  The problem arises when you  succumb to the hard sell, and then are never able  to actually use the timeshare because it’s oversold. Many of the timeshare condos are illegal,  or nearly so, and you could  lose tens of thousands of dollars with no  recourse but to complain to the BBB.  If you are interested in a  timeshare, do your research and go through a  reputable company with good  customer reviews.

Surprise Fees

Surprise fees and charges are a problem in all corners of the travel   industry, from hotels and resorts to airline tickets. Travel companies  are  legally allowed to quote ridiculously low prices and then tack on  fees for  things you expected to be included, such as use of the gym or  pool, or the  ability to check your bags. Even if you don’t use the gym  or pool, resorts can  require all guests to pay their “resort fee,” which  can make your vacation a  lot more expensive than you expected. Experts  recommend using a travel agency  that will give you an “all in” quote so  you know exactly how much you’ll be  paying before you go.

Rental Car Scams

When you rent a car, you are given the opportunity to look for and  report  damage before you drive it off the lot so that you aren’t charged  for damage  you didn’t cause. However, some shady companies count on  your either not doing  the inspection, or not noticing hidden damage such  as under the car so that  they can charge you for it later. Customers  can also be charged a “loss of use”  fee and most will suck it up and  pay, but then the car—damage and all—is  returned to the fleet to gouge  the next person who comes along.

Cabbies

Cabbies, especially in foreign countries, are notorious for overcharging.  They can do this by setting the  meter for the night/weekend rate during  a weekday, quoting an unreasonable  price, or “dropping” your large  bill, then switching it for a hidden, smaller  one and accusing you of  underpaying. You can protect yourself by calling a  reputable cab company  from your restaurant or hotel instead of hailing one on  the street, and by knowing the going rate in advance.

In Las Vegas, a common taxi scam is for the driver to unload your  bags in a  hurry and then drive off without you realizing that one of  them is still in the  trunk. It pays to always be alert and on your toes  when traveling, especially  in Vegas.

Imposters

A typical way travelers get scammed is by people pretending to be  someone  they’re not. For example, it’s becoming increasingly common for  scammers to  call hotel guests in the middle of the night claiming to be  the front desk.  They say there was a problem with your credit card and  need the number again,  counting on the fact that you’re too sleepy to be  suspicious.

In other countries, scammers will pose as “tourist police,” and demand  to  check your wallet for counterfeit money. They’ll look official and  may even  flash a badge, but after they disappear you’ll realize your  cash went with  them. “Hotel inspectors” in Europe may ask to check your room—one  distracts you while the other  helps himself to valuables left on the dresser or  desk. Don’t let them  in, even if they look official.

Summer Vacation Shysters

Summer is a busy time for scammers and con artists, and they work in  a  couple of different ways. Fake travel companies will advertise   too-good-to-be-true package deals to college students who want to go  somewhere  awesome for their summer break and don’t have the patience or  experience to do  their research. The students will buy the cheapest  deal, and then the company  will disappear—with their money.

Another common ploy is for scammers to check Facebook or other  social media  for young people who post about their vacations. They can  get a remarkable  amount of information about people that way, and then  they will contact the  grandparents by email, claiming to be the  traveling grandchild in need of wired  money. If you ever get a message  from a loved one who is traveling and needs  money, always call and speak  to them directly before sending it.

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