If you’re hoping to get out of the Valley to escape the heat, be careful as you make plans.
Travel scams are in “full swing” as temperatures soar in the Phoenix area, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Thursday.
Here’s how to avoid being scammed on summer vacation.
1. Book with trusted companies and websites
Don’t book with a lesser-known travel website even if it shows cheaper prices. You might lose a lot more if the website turns out to be fake. A website might be fraudulent even if it shows up near the top of search results. Instead, use a major travel website or contact the hotel or resort directly. If booking on a hotel website, call the hotel first to make sure you’re using the correct site.
2. Check for online complaints
Check the Better Business Bureau for consumer complaints about the business before booking. Previous travelers might have already sounded an alarm. You can also search for online reviews of travel agencies, cruises, hotels and other vacation companies on Google, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Cruise Critic and more. Trusted friends, neighbors, relatives or co-workers might also have suggestions.
3. Look at the fine print
It might be a pain, but paying attention to detail could pay off in a major way. Take the time to review all of the terms and conditions before booking. Many companies place important disclosures in the fine print, including fees not included in the advertised price. Be wary of booking with a company that won’t explain the terms and conditions or pressures you to sign something before reviewing it.
4. There’s no such thing as a free vacation
Don’t fall for promises of free, or nearly free, vacation packages. Some companies don’t provide the perks they advertise or tack on restrictions and charges that can ruin your vacation. You might also be forced to sit through lengthy, high-pressure presentations to book the trip. Even savvy consumers can be caught off-guard in those situations.
5. Get it in writing
Legitimate businesses will always provide a written contract guaranteeing your reservation. This allows you to hold the business accountable if something goes wrong.
6. Know your refund options
Speaking of contracts, always request a written cancellation policy. You never know what might come up that prevents you from traveling. Also find out if you will be charged a deposit at booking or the entire tab once you arrive at the destination. The same advice holds true for room-sharing and short-term rental websites such as Airbnb.
7. Consider credit cards
Booking lodging, activities and transportation with cash, check or a debit card means you won’t be able to request a refund if the business turns out to be a sham. Credit cards give you more protection because you can file for a refund, also known as a charge back, if you are defrauded. Reporting fraud to the credit-card company may also help stop the scammer from victimizing others. One more thing — never pay for travel through a wire-transfer service such as Western Union or MoneyGram, which are favorite tools of con artists.
8. Avoid robocall vacations
Not only are robocalls that advertise vacation packages annoying, they’re also illegal in most cases. Be cautious of doing business with a company that sells travel deals over the phone. And never give out personal information to telemarketers or send money to collect a prize.
9. Beware fake vacation homes
If you’re looking to rent a vacation home, beware of people who claim to be property owners and ask for wire transfers. Check out reviews from other users and be skeptical of any property that includes no or very few photos. It’s also best to communicate with the host or owner through an official website.
How to report travel fraud:
If you’ve been a victim of a travel-related scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at 602-542-5763, in Tucson at 520-628-6648 or outside the metro area at 800-352-8431. Consumers can also file complaints online at the Attorney General’s Office website.
Tell us your vacation scam story. Contact consumer investigations reporter Rebekah L. Sanders by emailing email@example.com, texting HereToHelpAZ to 51555 or filling out our online form.
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