Now that the holiday season is over, and those expensive winter trips are being discounted a bit, it may be time to consider packing up the bags for some chillin' out away from the crowds.
But keep in mind that there are a number of scams that unsuspecting travelers can fall victim to if they are not careful. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers tips on how to avoid them:
· Be cautious. When making any purchase, it's always best to be suspicious of offers that sound too good to be true. That's certainly the case when making travel plans. Many con artists promise great vacations or airline deals for very low prices, so you should be especially wary of those advertised in unsolicited e-mails or faxes.
Before you sign up, contact the sender and ask some tough questions. For example, find out what is included in the bargain price, the names of the airlines or resorts involved, and the full name and address of the company offering the otherwise "sweet" deal.
If the person you speak to is unwilling to answer these questions or gives vague or incomplete responses, then the offer is probably a scam, and walk away.
· Scrutinize "free" offers. Be particularly suspicious of "free" travel promises. It's rare that a legitimate business will give away anything for nothing. You may find that the vacation is "free" only if you commit to making a costly additional purchase, or you may be told that you must reveal your credit-card number.
Don't do it. The person asking for this information is probably an identity thief who will use the information to make unauthorized charges to your credit card or bank accounts.
· Confirm the details. Even when working with a reputable travel agent or resort, you may find that your dream vacation doesn't quite meet expectations. That's why it's important to confirm in advance both your reservation and the details of the deal.
You want to be sure that dates and locations are correct, and that you agree on the terms and quality of your vacation. If the advertisement promises "first-class accommodations," for example, find out what that means so you are not disappointed with your room or any other aspect of your stay.
· Pay with a credit card. If you are confident that you are dealing with a legitimate business, it is usually smart to pay with a credit card. That's because you may be able to challenge the charge with the company if you feel you did not get what you were promised.