Is the Deal Real? 5 ways to avoid travel fraud

March 30, 2010 9:41:01 AM PDT
Seventy-four percent of recent survey respondents say they plan to travel in 2010 but only if they can find a good deal. Unfortunately, sometimes the good deal is too good to be true as travel scams cost consumers over $10 billion each year, according the Better Business Bureau.

Now is the time that many single travelers and families start to booking their spring and summer getaways, so Gabe Saglie, senior editor of Travelzoo says they should take some steps to protect themselves before booking what they think is, but may not be, a great deal.

At their Test Booking Center in Chicago, Travelzoo rigorously tests 400-500 deals every day to ensure authenticity before publishing the best travel deals for the site's 18 million subscribers. This testing process includes:

  • Calling the travel provider and asking for all details of the deal as well as final pricing (inc, taxes/fees)
    • Completing the booking process online and carefully reading the details of the taxes, fees and incremental charges
    • Checking for call center hold times and reporting lengthy delays.
    • Questioning any "fees" that weren't included in the initial research of the offer and alerting the travel company of any issues
    • Ensuring that the travel provider gives accurate details of the offer and doesn't engage the consumer in "bait & switch".

    Here are five steps Gabe Saglie says you can follow to verify a deal the same way the experts do:

    1. Do Your Homework. Call the travel provider and ask for details on final pricing, including all taxes and fees. Also, compare that final number against other market pricing to the same destination to make sure the offer is really a deal.

    2. Know Exactly What Is Included. Does that free three-night stay come with a requirement to attend a high-pressure 90-minute timeshare sales pitch? Does that drastically reduced rate come with a pricey daily "resort fee?" More and more, hotels are tacking on additional fees such "resort" or "housekeeping" fees that aren't included in the featured price of a deal. (Travelzoo always presents, often in bold face, any extra resort fees, etc. that may be part of a special deal so a deal can be properly evaluated.) Also, double check that the destination you are flying into doesn't have a "departure tax" at the airport. While typically minimal, better to be prepared before arriving at the payment desk.

    3. Check References. From word-of-mouth to the Better Business Bureau's database, research on the travel provider, especially when it comes to paying up to companies you may not know.

    4. Verify Web Site Security. Before entering credit card information online, check to make sure the web address starts with "https", and not just "http" or anything else. The extra "s" in https signifies a secure a site for credit card purchases and personal information.

    5. Confirm What You Buy. When possible, pay with a credit card. This is the safest way to pay for travel online since you can dispute charges for services you don't get. The trick is reporting fraudulent charges promptly. Once you've booked through a vacation company, confirm directly with the travel provider (i.e., airline, hotel, transportation, etc.) to make sure your itinerary matches their records. Make sure to print out all the details of your trip, including confirmation numbers and contact information for all companies that are part of your travel.

    TRAVEL STATISTICS

    • According to a Travelzoo survey, 74% of recent survey respondents say they plan to travel in 2010, but only if they can find a good deal
    • Travel scams cost consumers over $10 billion each year, according to the Better Business Bureau
    • Out of the 3,900 industries the Better Business Bureau monitors, the travel industry consistently ranks near or in the top 40 for number of complaints
    • In 2007, the Better Business Bureau received the following number of complaints by industry:
      • Travel Agencies & Bureaus = 5,834
      • Airlines = 4,777
      • Hotels = 4,897
    • In 2008, the Better Business Bureau received the following number of complaints by industry:
      • Travel Agencies & Bureaus = 5,219
      • Airlines = 5,103
      • Hotels = 5,062


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