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 youíre taking the kids to Disneyland, spending a romantic week in Aruba, or heading to Duluth for your cousinís wedding, you need to know what to look for to protect yourself.
The fact is, travel scams vary widely, from pickpockets to legal resort chargesódonít assume that legitimate businesses canít 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, hereís what to be aware of:
Time Share Scams
If you live in the U.S. youíve 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 wouldnít want a vacation home for which they donít 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 itís 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 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 donít use the gym or pool, resorts can require all guests to pay their ďresort fee,Ē which can make your vacation a lot more expensive than you expected. Experts recommend using a travel agency that will give you an ďall inĒ quote so you know exactly how much youíll 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 arenít charged for damage you didnít 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 ďloss of useĒ fee and most will suck it up and pay, but then the caródamage and allóis returned to the fleet to gouge the next person who comes along.