Many students look forward to spring break, when they can enjoy time off from classes and have fun with their friends. Their budgets are often limited, so they seek out deals on flights and accommodations.
Better Business Bureau advises students to be skeptical of travel deals that seem too good to be true. Parents and other relatives should be on guard if they get calls purportedly coming from students stranded in distant locations, as scammers see the popularity of spring break trips as an opportunity to pull the so-called “grandparent scam.”
Many online sites offer deals on travel. Some are legitimate, while others may be scams. BBB advises students to deal with reputable sites when booking travel, checking a site’s reservation policies and other fine print before booking deals. Package deals may be touted as all-inclusive, but be sure you understand exactly what is included.
Here are some BBB tips to avoid disappointment with travel deals:
- Book through a reliable travel agent or travel site. Check its BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or find a BBB Accredited Business. Accredited Businesses must adhere to the BBB’s eight standards of trust, requiring that they advertise honestly, be transparent and honor promises.
- Get details about your trip in writing. Be sure to confirm the details, such as total cost, any restrictions, flights, hotel reservations and car rental.
- Pay with a credit card. Paying by credit card offers the most protection should something go wrong because you can challenge the charges.
- Consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for particular perils which are specific conditions under which it will pay claims. Be sure to shop around and read the terms and conditions before purchasing.
- Use caution when considering deals. If a deal or package offers a lot for a very low price, be wary. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If a site is offering a hotel deal, take time to call the actual hotel to verify that the company offering the deal has a relationship with the hotel and to make sure the room exists.
- Be wary of claims you “won” a trip. Generally if you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift and there are no hidden fees. Be especially leery if the offer is unsolicited. Check on any unsolicited offers by calling BBB at (314) 645-3300.
Parents and other relatives should be aware of the grandparent scam, which usually starts with a call from someone claiming to be a person you know (often a child or grandchild), who is stranded or needs money to get out of jail or deal with another emergency.
If you get such a call, resist any request to send money immediately. Ask for a phone number to contact the person back, then check with other relatives to determine the whereabouts of the person who is allegedly stranded. A request for you to send money by Western Union, MoneyGram or a prepaid card like Green Dot MoneyPak is usually a scam.
Remember to check a company’s BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling (314) 645-3300.