Travel Scams

Published: 18th May 2009
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Beware of the travel scam. Watchdogs are worried that penny-pinching travelers will bite at all sorts of free bait and end up with regrets.As Steve Burnas of the Chicago Better Business Bureau cautions, "What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
Not so free: A sample offer for free airline tickets from Florida-based Sunshine Promotions asks a traveler to fill out a "Travel Request Form" and mail it in with a "U. S. Postal Money Order" of $50 a person for ticket taxes and other fees. The traveler must pick "two...."arrival and departure dates" at least 30 days apart. Your dates might be approved but might not. Even if you do get the date you want, additional fees can make your "free" airfare pricier that the actual ticket value, says the Florida Attorney General's office. So the only thing that flies away might be your $100 deposit. Read the fine print carefully.
Follow the bouncing date: Afax comes into the office. For $99 you get a four-day Bahamas cruise, some hotel stays, and gratis airfare and hotel for a Mexico, Las Vegas, or Honolulu vacation. Call in and your told there are two spots "if you book now." You give your credit card number and are told you can depart anytime after 60 days. Why the lag? Scam experts note that after two months, it's too late to contest charges if the deal fizzles or you get "bounced" -common practice in travel come-ons, where departure dates are repeatedly postponed.
Persistence may pay off: Last summer, Expedia promised a $75 gas card to travelers booking four hotel nights. But there was a hidden catch. The card was for one-time use only. One customer who had only spent $20 to fill up his Prius complained to the company. The result: Expedia eventually credited $55 to his card. The lesson: There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but a determined traveler, dealing with a reputable vendor, may still be able to get a free ride.

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