Booking a trip online can be quick and easy, but it is also fraught with hidden dangers that can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.
Online travel scams are on the rise according to several news outlets, leaving many consumers broke and stranded instead of sitting poolside relaxing in the sun.
To help you protect yourself and your wallet we contacted SiteJabber.com, an online business review site, to find out what to look for so you don’t get swindled.
Jeremy Gin, one of the site’s co-founders, spoke with us and gave us helpful information on all the latest scams, along with tips on how to safely book online.
Scam #1: The Disappearing Reservation.
You book and pay for a hotel reservation/ car rental or airline flight, then discover your reservation doesn’t exist.
This vacation scam is the result of book online using a 3rd party site (a site other than the actual hotel/ airline or rental company) and while it sounds impossible, it is actually happening quite often now.
While many 3rd party sites are reputable there are plenty that are not, so it’s important that you do your homework before booking.
As Jeremy explained, many of these sites are located in countries outside the U.S., which means they are not subject to our regulations and may not have an extradition pact with us (so they can’t be punished).
To protect yourself, take the following steps:
• Book your reservations from the official company site whenever possible- many 3rd party sites look like the actual site so call or email the hotel/airline to get the exact website spelling and call to confirm after you make your reservation.
• If you use a 3rd party site, make sure it is a reputable one that is well-known; check consumer reviews and look up the companies history before you book.
• When using a 3rd party site contact the hotel/airline to make sure the deal being offered is legitimate.
• Book your reservation using a major credit card, not your bank card; if there is an issue thieves will not have your bank information and most major credit cards will help you dispute a transaction and recover your money.
Scam #2: Lemon Vacations
You get a great deal on a trip, but once you get there you find there are a lot of hidden fees- driving the cost of the trip up, terrible customer service or shabby amenities.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:
• Read the fine print to make sure you are not missing anything; many places put up only positive customer reviews or only list the main selling points, so read everything written on the site.
• Check customer reviews from sources other than the actual company site, like SiteJabber, to make sure they are accurate.
• Call ahead of time to ask questions and make sure you are getting what you pay for: ask about things such as room service, what amenities are included or anything else you expect to be a part of your package.
Scam #3: Non-Existent Cancellation Policies & Exorbitant Fees To Change A Reservation
You book a trip and are led to believe you can change your reservation or cancel it at little or no cost- then when you try to do either you are told you can’t or must pay a huge fee.
Even worse, some consumers are reporting the site they booked with changed their dates with no warning and refused to issue a refund and many sites hide their refund policy until after you book.
As Jeremy explained, the best way to protect yourself is to do the following;
• Learn the company’s return policy before booking; if you don’t see it on the site call or email and have them send you a copy.
• Get written confirmation of your flight dates and hotel dates to make sure you have proof if they try to change it.
• Book with a known and trusted company for the best possible outcome.
What do you think of these travel scams? Share your thoughts with us below.