BBB helps eager travellers avoid travel scams

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    With Labour Day weekend approaching, travelers will be searching for last-minute deals for one final getaway before summer ends. With 41 travel and vacation scams reported across Canada since 2015*, nine of those occuring in Alberta, Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to investigate before finalizing Labour Day holiday plans.

    “Unfortunately scammers are counting on travelers to be caught up in the rush of last-minute planning and making hasty, costly decisions,” says Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “That’s why BBB is here to help eager travelers plan, research and make secure arrangements with trusted businesses.”

    What could go wrong?

    • Ruined Travel Plans: While there are legitimate third-party booking sites out there, scammers are hiding behind cleverly designed fake websites and online ads, trying to bilk you out of your hard-earned money. If you use a phony third-party booking site, you could risk showing up to the airport or hotel with no record of your reservation or ticket purchase on file because it was all a scam.

    • Be sure to only deal with reputable third-party booking companies and contact the airlines, hotels and other accommodations directly to verify all prices, discounts and deals before paying.

    • Paying for a “free” trip: Unsolicited phone calls, emails or mail flyers claiming that you are the lucky winner of a free trip are red flags of a vacation scam, especially if you never entered a contest or give-a-way. Scammers ask for a an upfront fee in order to claim your prize, usually by wire money transfer. The trip doesn’t exist and once the transfer is complete, you’re left empty-handed. Remember, you cannot win something you didn’t enter.

    Follow these six BBB tips for a stress-free Labour Day weekend holiday:

    • Use a credit card: When away, pay with a credit card – but bring enough cash for emergencies. A credit card can offer zero-liability policies to help protect or dispute unauthorized charges. However, make sure to contact your card provider and bank to let them know about your trip to avoid any surprising card suspensions.

    • Rent wisely: If you choose to rent a house or apartment rather than a hotel, be wary of vacation rental scams. Scams frequently pop up on online classified sites. Usually the rental is for an exceptionally good price and you have to put down a “deposit,” mainly through wire transfer. Don’t be fooled by photography, as scammers often use images stolen from actual property listings and rentals.

    • Read all invoices and contracts carefully: Be sure to read all contracts carefully to see what it includes and if you’ll be charged for anything additional. Don’t pay deposits using wire transfer, and make sure you also read and understand the cancellation policy.

    • Consider using a travel agency. Trustworthy travel agents will be able to help you book all aspects of a vacation safely and securely. Search BBB Business Reviews to find local reputable travel agencies.

    • Consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for particular perils that occur on your trip under which it will pay out claims. Be sure to do your research on different travel insurance policies and thoroughly read the terms and conditions before purchasing.

    • Be wary of claims that you “won” a trip. Generally if you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift. Be especially leery if the offer is unsolicited.

    *BBB Scam Tracker

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