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Online Travel Fraud

Fraudsters book trips to the cleaners, not paradise

Imagine booking your dream vacation online but instead getting the holiday from hell. In the most elaborate case of its kind, a travel company that booked vacations between July 2003 and August 2006 has been prosecuted for advertising and selling vacation packages that didn't exist.

Online Travel FraudOnline Travel FraudThe phony companies convinced thousands of online customers to pay for bogus holidays. While most of the cash was refunded to customers through credit card companies, the victims lost out on their vacation.

If you're looking for the best price for your next trip (and who isn't), know how to protect yourself from fly by night companies pedaling their wares online.

Instant travel agent: You send money for travel agent training books and they send you an ID to qualify for insider discounts. Trouble is, the travel industry doesn't recognize the ID, and you're left with useless training materials and a lighter wallet.

Vacation certificates: Buy a special certificate that guarantees a bargain-priced holiday. But, the certificate doesn't figure in all the extra fees. Your airfare may be free, but your $50 hotel room racks up an additional $400 in hidden costs.

Free for a price: You get a bargain basement trip, but your room is cramped and dirty, the food is worse than cafeteria fare and your miles from where you really want to be. Complain and you'll likely be offered an upgrade - at a substantially higher price.

Down-payment lock-in: You win a super travel bargain - but only if you secure your spot with an immediate deposit. When you try to firm your dates, the promoter strings you along with one excuse after another until your deposit expires - or he disconnects the phone and moves onto another sucker.

Protect yourself against travel fraud

  1. If it's too good to be true, it is.
  2. Never make a decision without comparison shopping.
  3. Ask lots of questions - the only stupid ones are the ones you don't ask.
  4. Get all the details before signing on the dotted line.
  5. Never give credit card information on the phone unless you've met the travel agent.
  6. Buy travel services only from companies you know and trust.
  7. If you're in doubt, say no and move on.

Got any tips for avoiding travel fraud online?

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Seems logical that to avoid most of these issues, you should go to a travel agent who will guide you to that perfect vacation and protect you from all the pitfalls encountered in this article. The price will not be that much more, if any different. The agent receives most remuneration from the vendor although special extra planning can incur fees for time. Remember the old proverb: Don't be Penny wise and Pound foolish. This applies to travel more than anywhere else!

Great tips!<br/><br/> One thing I would add is to do a little research on the company before you book by looking them up on the Better Business Bureau website (http://welcome.bbb.org/). The reports they offer outline the company's record and customer complaints. You can even contact the BBB for help in resolving a problem. It's worth taking a look.<br/><br/> I've written more about this issue here: http://informedtravel.blogspot.com/2008/02/how-reliable-is-your-travel-company-and.html

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