Over the years, I have warned you about many travel related scams. Recently the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning in particular about phony travel agencies scamming people regarding school sponsored trips. According to the BBB, the scam starts when what appears to be a legitimate travel agency contacts the school with a proposal for a reasonably priced school trip. Once the school and the parents of the students have agreed to work with the travel agency, the scammers start to change the terms of the contract including requiring the parents or the school to initially pay for plane tickets, hotel rooms and other trip related costs that were to have been taken care of by the travel agency. Prepayment is common for travel services, which is why travel scams are so popular with scammers. Ultimately, there are no plane tickets, hotel rooms booked and the entire venture is a scam through which the phony travel agency steals the money collected from parents and the school. While the BBB warning dealt just with school trips, phony travel agencies and phony travel bargains are scams that victimize anyone conned by these scammers.
There are a number of things that you should do to protect yourself from this type of scam. First and foremost you should do your research as to the legitimacy of the particular travel agency. You should only work with travel agencies that are accredited by major organizations such as the American Society of Travel Advisors (ATSA) or the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In addition, you should investigate whether the particular agent with whom you are working is accredited as a Certified Travel Associate (CTA), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) or Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE). Verify any reservations claimed to have been made by the travel agency with the airline and/or hotel directly.
Never make any payments without reviewing a written contract that provides all of the details of the services to be provided and the cost thereof. Of course if the cost of the trip appears “too good to be true,” you can be pretty sure that indeed it is not true and is a scam. Use a credit card to make your payments because if the travel services are a scam, it is a relatively easy task to have the charges removed from your credit card.
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