Questionable travel deals, overhyped events and travel hoaxes happen all the time. Katherine Hutt, the spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, and other experts share steps consumers can take to protect themselves.
Do your research
If a company has been around for a while, do a quick search on a site like the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) to check for complaints. Hutt says: “A brand-new domain name is a good indication of when something is potentially a scam.”
Peter John, the author of Around the World in 80 Scams: An Essential Travel Guide, says add the word “scam” to your Google search. “If you can find the name of the website linked to the word ‘scam’ online, it may be a scam,” says John.
If a “deal” is coming to you, put your guard up
If you are being solicited for some kind of special, be careful, says Mamie Kresses, an attorney in the Federal Trade Commission’s division of advertising practice. Find out the name of the company and make sure it is a reputable business. And, when you visit a website, make sure it is the brand you think it is.
“Some unscrupulous businesses may make their websites look like a name brand to garner your attention and your money.”
Always pay with a credit card
If a purchase turns out to be fraudulent, you might be able to challenge the charge when you use a credit card, says Kresses.
A picture’s worth 1000 scams
Do not trust the photo is legitimate. Hutt says do a reverse-image search before buying anything. To research an image that is on a holiday rental site, click on the image, save it to the desktop and then drop it into images.google.com. If you see that the same condo has been listed in several geographical locations, your scam-alarm should sound.
Make sure there is a phone number to call
“If the only way to contact them is an online form, or if it’s just a generic email address, that’s a red flag,” says Hutt. If you are unsure about something, find a way to verify the deal before booking. That might mean calling the venue.
Trust your instinct
“If there are any red flags, back off,” says Hutt. Be especially aware of any phrases that make you feel like you need to act quickly, like “limited time offer”, “the deadline’s approaching”, “two-for-one deal”.
Be prepared to make a stink
If you cannot get the response you want from a customer service representative at a company, John suggests contacting it through social media or by going to the media. “They will often give you your money back if you can get a newspaper to raise your case with them.” Plus, by making your experience a part of the public record you might also be able to help someone else avoid getting bamboozled. Washington Post