ASTA is warning consumers of holiday travel offers that are too good to be true.
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget common sense when it comes to special offers and prizes. The idea of a free Caribbean getaway might sound tempting in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, not to mention the snow, but an offer that seems too good to be true, usually is, “ ASTA said in a consumer advisory.
“Everyone likes to think they can’t get scammed, but savvy scammers have a host of tricks and techniques that can fool even the most skeptical among us,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “That’s why it’s so important for people to stop and ask themselves if a vacation deal is simply too good to be true. The peace of mind that comes from working with a professional travel agent, such as those who belong to ASTA, is priceless.”
ASTA offers the following suggestions when evaluating any travel offer to help avoid being a victim of a travel scam:
• Retain a healthy dose of skepticism. Be extremely skeptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip.
• Do your homework. Some offers might sound great on the surface, but be sure to read the fine-print. Certain offers impose so many requirements and restrictions, such as black-out dates and companion fees, that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own or used an ASTA travel agent
• Run a “background check.” Consumers should vet the companies from which they purchase travel services. They can do this by searching for the company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site or by checking to see if they are members of ASTA. Other sites to check are www.complaintsboard.com and www.ripoffreport.com.
• Keep private information private. Never give out your credit card number unless you initiate the transaction and you are confident about the company with which you are doing business.
• Get the facts. You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. These details should include the total price; cancellation and change penalties, if any; and specific information about all components of the package.
• Follow up. Once you have the complete details of your trip, contact the hotel and transportation companies on your own to make certain the reservations have been made.
• Know where you stand. If you insist on replying to an e-mail or calling a 900-number in response to a travel solicitation, understand the charges and know the risks.
• Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income are red flags to be heeded.
• Protect yourself. Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered. Details of the Fair Credit Billing Act can be found at the Federal Trade Commission's website.
Consumers who think they have been scammed should contact their local Better Business Bureau or state Consumer Affairs Office, state attorney general’s office, or e-mail ASTA’s Consumer Affairs department at [email protected] for information and assistance.