Don#039;t get taken on your vacation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Before you do business with a travel company, check it out with the Better Business Bureau.

Travel and vacation scams usually are characterized by free or exclusive offers or unrealistic low prices, says Dr. Fred Waddell, Extension Family Resource Management Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Often these scams are linked to prize promotions or sweepstake offers.

Regardless of how they are offered, these type scams have common elements: they fail to disclose certain fees, conditions, and restrictions that apply, and they misrepresent the nature or quality of the travel and hotel accommodations.

For example, you might have to spend one of the two free days in Florida attending a time-share presentation or else pay for your hotel.

A cruise to the Bahamas may turn out to be a short ferry ride.

Most travel and vacation scams also misrepresent a consumer’s ability to book the offered package, says Waddell.

A discount travel package may require reservations be made within a year and 90 days before the requested travel dates, or require three alternative travel dates.

A fraudulent company fails to reply to the travel reservation request consumers submit, replies too late for consumers to make personal travel arrangements, determines the reservations were not submitted within the 90-day period, or determines the requested travel dates are fully booked.

In the worst case, the fraudulent company confirms the reservations with the consumer, then doesn’t deliver the promised air line tickets.

The consumer, who had made the necessary personal travel arrangements arrives at the airport or hotel to find there are no reservations.

The consequences of most, if not all, travel and vacation scams results in consumers not receiving the represented goods or services and can’t recover their money from the companies perpetrating these scams, says Waddell.

Consumers routinely lose hundreds of dollars in such scams.

There are no free rides, says Waddell for free information about avoiding travel and vacation scams, write to the Federal Trade Commission at Washington, D.C. 20580, or call the National Fraud Information Center toll free at (800) 876-7060.