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Record-low prices can be a sign of a travel scam

ASTA cautions against travel offers that “sound too good to be true”

Even with the struggling economy, people are still taking time to plan their summer vacations. And why not? Record-low prices can mean some great vacation deals, but they can also be a sign of a travel scam. ASTA cautions consumers to carefully evaluate any travel offer before spending their hard-earned dollars. "For many, now is a great time to plan a vacation or get-away. Prices have dropped considerably and furthermore, who couldn’t use a bit of relaxation in the midst of all…

Even with the struggling economy, people are still taking time to plan their summer vacations. And why not? Record-low prices can mean some great vacation deals, but they can also be a sign of a travel scam. ASTA cautions consumers to carefully evaluate any travel offer before spending their hard-earned dollars.

"For many, now is a great time to plan a vacation or get-away. Prices have dropped considerably and furthermore, who couldn’t use a bit of relaxation in the midst of all this bad news?" said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. "But with every dollar at a premium, it’s more important than ever for people to ask themselves if a vacation deal is simply too good to be true. Using an ASTA travel agent to arrange their vacation plans provides consumers peace of mind, knowing that they are working with a trusted travel professional."

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 .
  • 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 – 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 Web site.

Regardless of travel plans, using a professional ASTA travel agent can time and money. For information, visit TravelSense.org. There, consumers not only can find travel tips and advice but an ASTA travel agent in their area who specializes in a particular destination or type of travel on the Find a Travel Agent Directory.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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