It’s no secret that millions of Americans, between now and the New Year’s holidays, will hit the road, as well as get on planes and trains to visit their loved ones.
In fact, as the current recession hopefully winds down, and if gas and airfare prices remain stable, we can expect even more folks to travel over the coming months as compared to last year during the same time period.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns of possible travel scams of which all Americans should be aware.
According to the FTC, while some travel opportunities sold on the phone or offered through the mail, Internet, or fax are legitimate, many are, unfortunately, scams. The word "offer" can be a clue to possible hidden charges.
Here are the FTC tips on how to avoid travel scams:
Verify and clarify. Call to verify your reservations and arrangements. Get the details behind vague promises that you'll be staying at a "five-star" resort or sailing on a "luxury" cruise ship. When you have the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the airlines, car rental companies, and hotels you'll be using, confirm all arrangements which each vendor for yourself.
Put it on paper. Get the details of your vacation in writing. Get a copy of the company's cancellation and refund policies, and ask "What if . . ?" Consider whether some form of travel cancellation insurance may be appropriate.
Use a credit card to purchase your trip. If you don't get what you paid for, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. However, don't give your account number to any business until you've verified that the business is reputable.
Avoid a travel club flub. Ask questions before joining a travel club. Sometimes, a "free trial" membership can result in unauthorized charges on your credit card. Find out what you'll get for your money and how you can cancel.
Slow down if you've won a "free" vacation. Scam artists may tell you you've won a "free" vacation, but then claim to need your credit card number for "verification." Tell 'em to take a hike. If the promotion is legitimate, you never need to pay for a prize.
For more details on these FTC travel scam tips, go to ftc.gov.
My Final Thoughts: Travel can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. During the fast-approaching holiday season, taking a trip to visit family members will create priceless and lasting memories.
Don’t let potential travel scam artists “steal” your travel fun and joy from you, not to mention your hard-earned cash. Especially during these rough economic times, you should use extreme caution to make sure you are dealing with legitimate travel professionals when planning for your holiday travel.
Copyright 2009 by Bruce Mandelblit
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
Bruce Mandelblit (www.CrimeZilla.com) is a nationally known security and safety journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. His e-mail address is [email protected]
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