If only scammers took summers off. Since they don’t, your Better Business Bureau has rounded up some summertime tips to help you and your family avoid some of the seasonal “tourist traps” that scammers hope you’ll fall into during this vacation season.
• A reliable travel agent is always a good choice when you are making vacation arrangements. Be aware that fake travel agents and websites are lurking out there. Remember that a professional-appearing website can easily be faked and is no indication of the legitimacy of those you are dealing with. Check to the BBB to obtain information regarding marketplace history.
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• Pay for everything by credit card when possible. This method will offer you more protection if anything goes wrong.
• Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true, especially package deals that seem to offer a lot for a low price.
• Beware of unsolicited claims that you have won a trip. Check out the company that is making the claim with the BBB. There is almost always to catch to such offers and sometimes the person caught is you.
• Get all of your trip details in writing. Ask about total costs, fees and restrictions. Take copies of that information with you on the trip.
• If your plans include buying concert tickets, remember that unscrupulous sellers can trick you into sending them money and getting nothing in return. Some sell the same tickets over and over. Watch out if they have a sad story as to why they cannot use the ticket and must sell it. Don’t pay with cash and don’t wire money or transfer it through a prepaid account.
When dealing with online sites like Homeaway or VRBO, be sure to do your homework. These sites are designed to be a venue between the traveler and property owner. They don't prescreen or perform background checks on the individuals posting on the site. The Internet is full of accounts from disappointed travelers who thought they were going to be visiting that perfect summer vacation spot. Here are some recommendations to assure yours is a good experience:
• Check to see that the address really does exist by using a search engine to check it out.
• If you can get the name of the owner try to contact them. There have been plenty of instances reported where vacationers showed up at an address only to be told by the resident that it was not for rent. Ask lots of questions, especially about specific claims in the ad.
• As with anything else, pay with a credit card when possible. Only pay after you have seen the entire agreement. Ask in an e-mail if there is more to the agreement than what you have been shown. An e-mail record can be useful in the event of an eventual dispute.
• Ask for and check out references.
• Check out photos carefully for inside and outside views. No photos should be a deal killer.
For many of us the summer season is the only time the family can vacation together. With the proper precautions, there is no reason this family fun time should be adversely effected by those seeking to rip you off. Just be sure that you do your homework before leaving your home for summer travel.