When people think of travel scams, the images that come to mind usually consist of shifty cab drivers, slick money changing scams and friendly locals who want to sell ‘valuable’ items to tourists. Travellers can get fleeced when visiting a foreign country, but they can also pay dearly before leaving home. The con artists who are bilking customers are different and the names of the companies will change, but travel scams are nothing new. They’ve been going on for years because they work. Here are the scams to be aware of prior to hitting the road.
Consumers are probably familiar with this type of fraud, but people who are desperate for a freebie get taken and lose quite a bit of money. Vacations are never free. If they are advertised as such, it can be a holiday that’s tied to a lengthy timeshare sales presentation or simply a substandard vacation with lots of hidden fees. While some legitimate travel opportunities are sold over the phone and through the internet, many are scams; particularly the ‘you won a vacation’ type. Telemarketing scams originate out of boiler rooms. Skilled salespeople with years of experience pitch travel deals over the phone, but don’t deliver what is promised.
Offers to Become a Travel Agent
This has been going around for a long time. Once a five-hundred dollar fee is paid to a bogus company, a person will receive a fancy identification card in the mail that is supposed to open the door to all kinds of goodies. Airfares with steep discounts and free hotel rooms are used to lure consumers. There was a time when travel agents were entitled to lots of nice upgrades and free stuff. However, the days when agents could show up at an airport, flash their cards and be invited onboard any flight they wished to take are but distant memories. They were doing this back in the early 1980s and even before that. The truth nowadays is less appealing.
The deals to be gained are few and far between, and will only be available for real travel agents who have earned them. As far as official ID cards go, the only ones that count are the IATA (International Air Transport Association), and the IATAN (International Association of Travel Agents Network). Cards made by companies offering a $500 ‘become a travel agent program’ are utterly worthless, and will not be accepted anywhere in the world.
Discount Travel Clubs
The concept behind a travel club is that a customer pays a few dollars, receives a newsletter, and then gets a chance to sign up for unique and special discount trips. An honest travel club will be started by somebody with lots of experience in the travel industry. These packages can offer free plane tickets and hotel rooms, but there is always a portion of the trip that will have to be paid for by the customer. Taxes and fees are not included most of the time.
When there’s a company that offers to dramatically undercut the competition’s prices, the deal should be looked at with added scrutiny. Travel costs are dictated by seasons. For example, during the high season when consumers are offered a seven day getaway to a destination in the Caribbean or Mexico for $99, common sense would tell anyone that there must be a catch. The excuses likely to be heard from a shady travel club includes the following statements.
- “That week has already sold out.”
- “All of the low priced options are sold out.”
- “An upgrade is possible if you pay immediately.”
How Consumers Can Protect Themselves From Travel Scams
Remembering the old adage ‘if if looks too good to be true, it usually is’ can be all the protection that’s needed. Thoroughly research travel companies and find out if there are any unhappy customers. Checking the Better Business Bureau is a good way to find out about any complaints. Legitimate travel companies don’t put unreasonable pressure on customers to buy something, and will never insist on doing business over the phone.