How to Avoid Summer Vacation Scams

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Summer is here and the desire for a vacation away from the norm is a welcome thought to stressed-out workers. Due to the down economy, many people cannot afford the ideal vacation spot, and as a result they are looking for deals to satisfy their appetite for a good time as well as their thirst for a decent deal.

Scammers prey on budget conscious vacationers every year by offering a slew of getaway scams. Attorney Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert to warn Arkansans about the danger of these common vacation scams. "Unfortunately, scam artists are always on the prowl to lure cash from unsuspecting summer travelers," McDaniel states.

The National Consumers League put out a report detailing the most common vacation scams: They are: vacation rentals, timeshares, high pressure timeshare offers, fraudulent vacation packages, airfare scams and group travel scams.

Here are some tips you can follow to help prevent being taken in by a travel scam:

  1. Phone Scam . You may receive an unsolicited phone call coming from a so-called agent who informs you of amazing travel deals to locations many people cannot afford. Sometimes the old mantra, "It's too good to be true", applies. Do a reverse phone lookup and/or request the name of the company, address and official phone number to verify authenticity.
  2. Overpromises . Some travel agents may be legitimate; however, they will promise you the world and under deliver. While offering you a luxury vacation, the fine print may not spell out the actual details. Get every detail in writing down to the exact hotel location, star rating, and airline. Also, verify that the travel agency is registered with the American Society of Travel Agents before you give them any money.
  3. Sweepstakes . Beware of prizes given to you that require you to pay money to receive the reward.
  4. Free Memberships . Always read the fine print. Free travel memberships are often free for a short period after which you will be charged a monthly fee if you don't cancel your membership.
  5. Credit Card . If you are concerned with travel fraud, use a credit card that has protection built into it in case money is stolen from you. Never "wire" money.
  6. Timeshares . Timeshare pitches are increasingly popular because they offer participants free tickets to theme parks or cash vouchers. Many are legitimate, but in reality these timeshares are often overpriced and require high maintenance fees. Thoroughly research any offer before buying a timeshare and don't let a pushy salesman make your decision for you. Some timeshares offer free gifts but ask for processing fees for shipping. Once the gift arrives, it is often far less valuable than expected.
  7. International Travel . If you are traveling internationally, you can alert your credit card company as to the locations so they can be on guard for any unapproved charges.
  8. False Deals - A company may advertise a seemingly incredible deal; however, if you don't read the fine print you may encounter an unexpected fee when you arrive at your vacation destination. In other cases, an advertised deal may not be as good as it seems. Research the actual price of the hotel or vacation spot to see if you are truly getting a good deal.
  9. Group Discounts . Beware of group discount travel where a large deposit is required beforehand.
  10. Fake Reservations . Confirm any reservations made through third parties with the actual hotel, car rental agency, etc. to make sure the reservation actually exists and was paid for, rather than be left in the lurch when you arrive or be on the hook at check-out time.

Research every company and phone number thoroughly before making travel plans. Obtain the recommendations of friends and family or simply make the travel arrangements yourself. In the long run, you will be better off.