Avoid Travel Scams With These Tips When You Make Plans for Your Next Getaway or Quick Trip
Image: Pexels

Avoid Travel Scams With These Tips When You Make Plans for Your Next Getaway or Quick Trip

Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than falling for a scam or realizing that you're on the wrong end of a bad business deal

May 24, 2021

The summer travel season is almost here, meaning many families are gearing up to hit the road for the unofficial start of summer. But not much can ruin your great vacation faster than falling for a scam or realizing that you're on the wrong end of a bad deal. Before you find yourself trying to salvage your summer vacation plans, check out these tips about scam prevention and protecting your money.

Read the Fine Print

If you're like most people, you sign on the dotted line without reading anything. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Most people don't read what they're signing because they feel pressured, don't want to take the time needed to read, or don't want to seem unintelligent. The agreement usually only gets read when there's a problem and a dispute about a product or service, and even then it may not be entirely clear. How can you protect yourself? Not only should you read what you're signing, you should take steps to actively understand what you're reading. Once you sign on the dotted line, there usually isn't much you can do to back out. So if you don't read, you can be surprised later when don't get what you thought you would get. Read everything carefully before signing.

Get it in writing

Why do so many people accept verbal promises and assurances without anything to back it up? A lot of disagreements happen when both parties have differing understands of what was in a verbal agreement. Remember that if something isn't in writing, you can't prove it. So make sure that all promises and details are in writing and don't accept a simple promises or verbal agreement. If you get some kickback, remind the other party that it isn't because you don't trust but merely to make sure that there won't be any questions later.

Don't pay until you are confirmed

Would you pay for a vacation package if there is no guarantee that the vacation package will be available for you? Of course you wouldn't. But many people do just that. Before paying any money, make sure that all trip details and a confirmed reservation have been given to you in writing. Don't pay any money until the details of your travel have been confirmed.

Be Wary Of Coupons or Vouchers

In today's world, it only takes minutes to create a flashy website or postcards with all sorts of claims and statements. So keep in mind that it could only take minutes for a scammer to create a website and pretend to be a third-party travel provider, or to send you direct mail with a sham phone number. Is the company providing a coupon or voucher to cover part of the trip, such as lodging or airfare? Pay close attention. Whenever dealing with a third-party company, you will always want to make sure the company is legit, especially if the company is offering discount codes, vouchers, coupons or the like. Before spending any money, verify directly that the participating company, whether a hotel chain, cruise ship line, airline, etc, are participating in the program and will honor the deal or voucher. Think of it like Groupon on a much larger purchase.

Don't Pay With Cash

Even in today's consumer marketplace, some of us still pay cash for nearly everything. But that might not be the way to go, especially on larger purchases. If your money ends up in the hands of a scammer, you can be almost guaranteed to not get your money back if you pay cash. If you pay with a credit card, you can almost always get your money back if you were scammed or if the particular company goes out of business. Paying with a particular card and also get you some of the travel benefits the cards afford to users, not to mention valuable cash back offers. You should be extra cautious if a company is pressuring you into paying cash, whether it be directly or through hefty discounts for cash payments.

Check for Complaints Before You Make A Purchase

It doesn't take too long to check for complaints. But we often skip over this step, opting instead to trust and file a complaint once we run into a problem. Don't make this mistake with a larger purchase, especially if it's possible that you could lose a lot of money. You can contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office and inquire about a company or person, such as a travel agent or rental property landlord.

You can also search for complaints online by entering the company name and keywords like "complaints," "scam," or reviews. Beware that you may also find inaccurate reviews or fake websites that promote the company, which are both designed to give a false sense of security about a company. All complaints and reviews, positive and negative, should be taken with a grain of salt. One particular review, complaint, supporting website, etc should not affect your willingness to pay. It should, however, be taken into consideration as part of the bigger picture. Complaints on file with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office are more likely to have factual information as opposed to one of the thousands of complaint websites where people can rant and rave without a filter.

The BBB Can't Really Help you... Much

When there's a problem or someone wants to check on a company, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is often the first place people go. As we have posted before, the BBB is ultimately powerless to resolve complaints because it can't force a company to do anything. While having the BBB send a letter or email on your behalf could get you the outcome you want, you shouldn't expect much. On the other hand, the BBB is a great source of information about company complaints since it is the first place most people turn to for help.

Filing Complaints

If you spot a scam or have a complaint, file a complaint online with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office right away. Your prompt report can help shut down the scam or correct a business's shady practices. Additionally, you can file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission. These government agencies have the authority to force a company or business person to correct a particular action, fine a company or person, and can even place the company operators in jail. These agencies work to protect consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent practices.