As the summer season approaches, so do the promotions trying to take advantage of consumers looking to book their perfect getaway. But beware, this Summer’s hot vacation scams can burn your wallet quickly if you’re not careful.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is the latest top regulator to make a public warning about Summer vacation scams. The AG has a few tips to help consumers avoid vacation frustration and loss of money. Rokita told WRBI Talk radio
“When planning your vacation this summer, remember anyone can be the target of a scam.”
Regulators are seeing an uptick in reported consumer complaints about travel and tour operators. The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 54,000 reports of travel scams in 2021, with $95 million in total reported losses to consumers. Those numbers are already on the rise.
AG Rokita says consumers should, “Be on the lookout for heavily discounted amusement park tickets, condos, and hotel rentals.” Those discounts can come with a price, and that is high-pressure sales pitches that can last for hours and hours.
These are often referred to as vacation timeshare traps. In timeshare schemes, an OPC tour operator will approach consumers on the street or online, offering a free or very low-cost stay at a luxury timeshare resort. The catch is that you have to attend a timeshare sales presentation. The salesperson might also offer a free lunch, discounted cruise or airline vouchers, and other incentives like amusement park tickets, just to tour a timeshare or vacation club.
With Americans staring at record inflation and a potential economic recession, the keywords: free, low cost, and discounted vacations are being heavily searched for online. Everybody wants a deal but as the Indiana AG warns “Often, when a deal seems too good to be true, it is.”
Our very own Consumer Watch Team at Finn Law Group has stated many times that there is no need to feel pressured into making a “Today Only” decision. It might be a con if someone is forcing you to make an on-the-spot decision or lose out on a vacation opportunity of a lifetime. What was free today will have a price tag tomorrow. A decision to prepay years of vacations should not be done without due diligence and research on the company or tour operator.
Internet-only resort offers advertised through third parties online are also a potential sign of a scam. Scammers will try to get your attention with a too-good-to-be-true offer and then direct you to an illegitimate website.
Finally, the best way to avoid getting scammed out of your summer vacation is to do your research and trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. But there are key things that you can do to make sure you’re not taken advantage of, and the Indiana Attorney Generals’ office wants to help. Rokita recommends:
- Avoid high-pressure sales pitches before you book a trip.
- Be extra cautious when booking through an unfamiliar company. Check the Better Business Bureau ratings and research the name online to see if there are any allegations of scams.
- Read the fine print in the contract before you sign it. It will tell you about the conditions under which the operator can change or cancel the trip and the rules and penalties for cancellation.
- Pay by credit card. It gives you more protection than cash or checks.
- Use good judgment when sharing about your trip on social media. Consider changing your online privacy settings while on your trip.
- Lock your valuables, including personal information, in your trunk or hotel safe.
Keep your cool this summer as you plan your journey, and don’t make a hasty decision that might turn into an expensive mistake. If you find yourself in a situation that requires more assistance, check out resources on the FTC’s website and your own state attorneys’ general consumer protection section.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have been a victim of a travel scam, file a complaint with the BBB or seek legal advice from a qualified attorney that specializes in consumer protection issues.
Led by timeshare attorneys Michael D. Finn and J. Andrew Meyer, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm that specializes in timeshare-related matters. You can learn more about our consumer watch team on Twitter.