The summer travel season is almost here. If you're looking for deals, make sure you don't become the victim of a scam when trying to score a bargain. I spoke with SmarterTravel.com (opens in new tab) contributing editor Ed Perkins to find out which scams are most common and what you can do to avoid them. Here's his list:
1. Phony airline tickets
How it works: A Web site or travel agency offers a deal better than anyone else's, won't accept credit cards and instead demands direct transfer of funds. What you get is a plane ticket that's worthless.
How you can avoid this scam: Don't deal with an outfit you've never heard of. See our list of the 28 best travel sites (opens in new tab) for legitimate companies. Don't purchase airline tickets or any travel accommodations through a group that won't accept a credit card. If you have a dispute with a merchant -- for example, you were sold a phony plane ticket -- you may have an easier time working out a solution if you paid with a credit card.
2. Pay now for future travel
How it works: You're approached to enroll in a club that will enable you to take future vacations for an upfront fee of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. After enrolling, you try to book a vacation but are told that the location or time period you want is unavailable. Then you might be asked for more money to gain access to more upscale spots that would be available.
How to avoid this scam: Unless you know someone who participates in a particular program and is happy with the service, stay away from these clubs. Even if your friend recommends a club, do some research of your own. See Resources to Help You Check Out a Company.
3. Travel like a travel agent
How it works: You receive a promotion in the mail or e-mail telling you that you can travel like a travel agent or sell travel from your home. The group purports to be a large travel agency that will provide back-office support while you sell travel packages. For a fee (usually $495 or $4,900), you'll receive training and a travel agent ID card that you can use when making reservations to get a special rate.
How to avoid this scam: "There's hardly an airline or hotel that doesn't know about these phony IDs," Perkins says. Even legitimate travel agents have a tough time getting discounts on airfare. Toss the promotion in the trash or hit "delete."
4. No-ticket event packages
How it works: A tour operator offers a package for a big event, such as the Super Bowl, but doesn't actually have tickets to the event.
How to avoid this scam: Ask the tour operator if it has event tickets in hand. Of course, the representative could lie. So it's best to buy through an organization you know.
5. Phony insurance
How it works: A travel agent sells you a "protection plan" that's supposed to reimburse you if you have to cancel your trip. The policy, however, is unlicensed and you won't get your money back.
How to avoid this scam: Make sure the product you're being sold really is a licensed insurance policy. You can see a list of licensed travel insurance companies at the U.S. Travel Insurance Association site (opens in new tab). See The Case for Travel Insurance to learn more about what travel insurance covers. You can compare policies at InsureMyTrip.com (opens in new tab).
6. "We will sell your timeshare"
How it works: Groups charge an upfront fee to sell your unwanted timeshare. "The bottom line is they don't," Perkins says.
How to avoid this scam: Avoid any group that promises to sell your timeshare for a fee (other than cheap listing fee). If you have a timeshare you just can't unload, consider posting on Craigslist (opens in new tab) with an offer to give away your timeshare for free to anyone who will take over the commitment.
The Divorce Gap: Unique Retirement Issues for Women Over 50
The shocking loss of income and retirement savings that disproportionately affect divorced women is a big challenge – especially for those over 50.
By Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA®, CES™ • Published
4 Steps for Managing Income Withdrawals in Retirement
Investing for Income How Roth IRA conversions can help you minimize your taxes in retirement, extending the life of your savings.
By Kyle Hammerschmidt, Investment Adviser • Published
How Much Does Amazon Prime Cost for a Membership 2022?
Amazon Prime With the price of Amazon Prime rising 17% in 2022, the question remains: Is it worth it? We’ll run you through what you get (and ways you might pay less).
By Bob Niedt • Published
How to Score Free COVID Tests Before They Go Away
personal finance A federal program to send COVID at-home tests to your door will be suspended soon. Here’s how to get some before the deadline.
By David Muhlbaum • Published
The Best Way to Protect a Parent from Scammers
Scams Adult children worried about their parents’ ability to spot and avoid fraud have several options to help protect them, including a durable power of attorney, a guardianship and a revocable trust. Which might be best for your family?
By James J. Ferraro, JD • Published
How to Avoid a Summer of Scams – Expert Tips to Help Aging Parents
Scams Financial professionals share their top tips to help avoid becoming a statistic in a summertime wave of identity theft, account hacks and telemarketing fraud.
By Pam Krueger • Published
Keep Your Savings Safe
savings If your wealth exceeds FDIC limits, it may be time to open multiple accounts. But make sure your money is earning something, too.
By Rivan V. Stinson • Published
How to Appeal an Unexpected Medical Bill
health insurance You may receive a bill because your insurance company denied a claim—but that doesn’t mean you have to pay it.
By Rivan V. Stinson • Published
Amazon Prime Fees Are Rising. Here’s How to Cancel Your Amazon Prime Membership
Amazon Prime Amazon Prime will soon cost $139 a year, $180 for those who pay monthly. If you’re a subscriber, maybe it’s time to rethink your relationship. Here’s a step-by-step guide to canceling Prime.
By Bob Niedt • Last updated
Romance Scams: “I Love You; Send Money”
Scams Sweetheart swindlers are busier than ever. Be wary of falling in love online.
By Elaine Silvestrini • Published