Today I got a text message on my phone telling me I had won a free trip to the Caribbeans. To claim my prize all I had to do was phone a number with an 809 area code. I knew this was a scam of some kind, so I checked with AT&T. They told me to be cautions when responding to phone calls from this area code. Even though 809 is a legitimate area code for the Dominican Republic, it has also been used to lure gullible people into paying large international call rates.
And that free trip? There is no such thing. Just like there is no free lunch.
There are as many travel scams as there are con artists. Here are a few of them.
1. The “Cheap flight on a Major Airline” scam. If someone won’t tell you what major airline it is, then beware. Those major airlines suddenly turn into minor ones that stop at ten different places enroute to your destination. My advice: ask for details. If they can’t give you specifics, then walk away.
2. The “Fly for only $48” scam. Remember, that’s only one way. After they add service charges, processing fees and taxes, the total jumps significantly. And don’t forget the other incidentals such as checked baggage fee and seat assignment request fee. To add insult to injury, they won’t even give you water for free. Friends of mine bought a $2.00 ticket from Heathrow to Venice, and ended up paying $160 (not bad for a European holiday, but notice the jump in price). My advice: check the fine print.
3. The “Travel Discount Card” scam. Groups that make these offers are known as “card mills” because they sell cards identifying you as a credentialed travel agent who can travel at free or reduced rates. The problem is that many suppliers of travel do not accept these cards. My advice: Go to the American Society of Travel Agents website or call them to see if these cards are legitimate.
4. The “Offer Expires at Midnight” scam. This is just a high pressure tactic that travel scammers use to intimidate you into making hasty decisions. They know that this doesn’t give you time to do a background check into their company. My advice: Run a “background check.” Vet the travel company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site to see if they are members of ASTA. You can also check www.ripoffreport.com and www.complaintsboard.com .
5. The “Hollow Suitcase” scam. This happens frequently in train and bus stations. A traveler gets distracted and takes his eyes off his bag. In a flash someone with a hollow suitcase puts it over the traveler’s bag and then wheels the suitcase away. A variation of this happens on trains when someone runs through and grabs your case just as the train is pulling away. He hops off and you are stuck on a moving train. My advice: Go to our website at www.gninsurance.com/tripcancellation to get excellent trip protection insurance.
Doug Gulleson loves to scuba dive overseas and he makes sure he always takes his Amex card AND international travel insurance policy. Visit Good Neighbor Insurance at www.gninsurance.com for your next overseas trip and get a FREE quote.