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Travel Fraud What to Look For

Many con artists snare their marks by promising huge discounts that sound plausible, particularly since many travel suppliers today offer booking bargains and last-minute deals to recover sales lost after the September 11 tragedies. The following red flags show that you've been targeted by a travel scam artist.- The seller will not give you anything in writing describing the trip until you have paid up front. Always insist on material in the mail before you pay a dime, in deposits, fees, or charges of any kind.

Absolutely refuse to pay any money at all to a travel seller before you have this material in hand. Ask them to send complete details on the trip, including total price, service charges, processing fees, surcharges and any other hidden or undisclosed fees or charges, the components of the trip (particularly the specific hotels, airline flights, cruise ships and other services involved) and penalties for canceling or changing the trip plans and "blackout dates".- The seller pressures you to make an immediate decision.

Always refuse any high-pressure sales pitches that prevent you from shopping around with other travel retailers.- The seller asks for your credit card number or bank account number over the phone. Never give out this kind of information over the phone unless you called the travel retailer yourself, you know the retailer and you are completely confident in the company. All it takes is your credit card number and expiration date for the most inexperienced scam artist to make fraudulent charges on your credit card and with your bank account number, a scam artist can even transfer funds directly from your account.- The seller tells you that you just won a prize or a trip in a contest that is news to you.

If you can't remember registering for a sweepstake, you probably didn't. The promised trip is most likely a fraud or at the very least a gimmick with a ton of hidden costs and/or restrictions.- The seller says that you can claim your prize by paying a small administrative fee. A reputable contest or sweepstake will never require you to pay a fee to collect a prize. In fact, many states prohibit this by law.

Refuse to pay any amount of money to collect any prize or trip. If you have to pay for it, it's not much of a prize, is it?.- The seller asks you to make a bank transfer, send a certified check or money order, or prepare a check to be picked up by a courier. By using cash equivalents or receiving funds using delivery methods other than the U.

S. Postal Service, scam artists are trying to take advantage of perceived loopholes in federal regulations prohibiting fraud via phone and mail.- You cannot book the deal through any other travel retailer. If you are told that you have to purchase the package directly from the seller - that the deal is so good you can't buy it anywhere else - odds are something isn't on the level.

Though this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the major Red Flags to look for when offered what seems to be a great deal. Keep your eyes open, because believe me, they are looking for you.

.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Fraud.

By: Michael Russell

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