Trip tips can save consumers cash

January 18, 1999

Knowledge is the best weapon against vacation scams, say experts, who offer the following tips to avoid being taken:

- Know with whom you're dealing. Deal with members of a professional association such as the American Society of Travel Agents, the National Tour Association or the United States Tour Operators Association. If you're not familiar with the company, get its name, address and telephone number.

- Be wary of a company that wants to send a courier for your payment or asks you to send it by overnight delivery. It could be attempting to avoid mail fraud.

- Verify the travel arrangements before you pay anything. Get the details of your vacation, including exactly what's included and all contractual obligations, in writing. Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers for the lodgings, airlines and cruise ships you'll be using. Call them to verify your reservations.


- Ask if the business has insurance and whether you should buy cancellation insurance.

- Walk away from high-pressure sales presentations that don't allow you time to evaluate or that require you to disclose you income.

- Remember, timeshares, campgrounds and travel clubs may offer you membership that is hard to resell and that membership fees could rise.

- Use a credit card to make your purchase. If you don't get what you're promised, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. Don't give out your account number unless you initiate the transaction.

Warning signs for mail solicitations include:

- Lots of printing on the envelope.

- A simulated rubber stamp endorsement meant to impress recipients.

- An attempt to simulate official U.S. government correspondence.

- A "Certificate of Entitlement" saying that you've won a prize or been selected to receive a big discount.

Sources: Federal Trade Commission, American Automobile Association, The Better Business Bureau.

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