As a travel agent and consultant, I get this question a lot:
“How do I know if this offer or ‘deal’ is legitimate or if it’s a travel scam?”
Here are a few classic things to watch for and how you can protect yourself.
1. The prize cruise or vacation: “You’ve won a free cruise!”
You’re told you’ve won a free cruise or have qualified for a fabulous cut-rate price, but you’ll need to provide a credit card number to pay a deposit or processing fee. You may even be asked for your passport or Social Security number to prove that you’re the entitled winner.
If you give your credit card number, you may be charged “port fees” and other incidentals that exceed what you’d pay for an entire booking through a legitimate cruise line or travel agent. Provide your Social Security or passport number and you risk future identity theft. And your supposedly free vacation may require you to book a second guest at an inflated price.
2. The hidden sales pitch.
Some offers are designed just to get you to attend a sales pitch for a timeshare or an expensive and potentially problem-prone vacation club. You may in fact get a low-cost cruise, but past passengers complain of below-par accommodations – and high-pressure presentations that take not the promised 90 minutes but four hours or more. I’ve seen people leave these intimidating sales pitches in tears before.
3. The long-distance scam.
Offers are sometimes nothing more than a ruse to run up your phone bill. To claim your prize cruise, you’re told to call a 900 phone number or one with an area code of 876, 868, 809, 758, 784, 664, 473, 441, 284 or 246. Those codes seem all-American, but are actually for foreign countries, with the clock running at $5 a minute or more. In the end, there’s no cruise, only a high phone bill
How to Protect Yourself:
Last year, the Better Business Bureau received more than 1,300 complaints about cruises.
- Beware of buzzwords. Travel promises tend to use language like “you’re eligible to win” or “guaranteed.” One word that should never trick you: “Free.” It means just that — so don’t pay deposits or service fees on the promise you’ll get them back later.
- Find out who really sent the offer. If an offer comes from an unrecognized source, assume the worst. But legitimate cruise lines may send past customers emails or mailings about real low-cost offers. Before you respond, authenticate the address with an online search. Watch out for look-alike Internet addresses that are just a letter or two different from legitimate ones. Never click on attachments in unsolicited emails; they could unleash rogue programs known as “malware” on your computer.
- Get proper confirmation of your booking. If you book through a travel agent or other third party, make sure that you get two sets of confirmation numbers — one directly from the cruise line and one from the other agency. That will help in any disputes.
- Pay with a credit card. That’s safer than a debit card or check and will allow for easier reimbursement or settlement of payment disputes if problems arise.
The bottom line is…its your money and its up to you to protect it. There is an easy way to do this when it comes to travel:
Use a reputable travel agent to do the work for you. They will find the best value for your money and most times it doesn’t cost you a thing extra. That’s right…we don’t even charge a fee to do the work on most vacation packages!
Travel agents offer so much more than you can get doing things yourself. From free planning, advice, upgrades, price reductions AFTER your purchase, proper insurance protection, trustworthy tours, transportation, assistance when trouble arises and so much more. We know the safety about your destinations, cruises and shore tours.
Travel agents are trained in what they do and often times they’ve already been where you are going and can offer loads of inside information you can’t get elsewhere. They can shop vendors that are not even available to the public and most times beat pricing you can find on the internet. Valuable resort and cruise line advice that will be critical to your stay will be given so there are no ‘surprises.’
Great travel agents are trained, certified and agency accredited. Look for one that SPECIALIZES in what you are looking for. (we specialize in all-inclusive resorts and river cruises in Europe, Asia and Russia)
Don’t fall for a scam, head to a trusted agent for real help and expertise!
Call or click to find out more about what we can do for you:
Find out more about Jolly Mon Vacations and River Cruise Guru