CONSUMER ALERT: Booking Travel Online Could Include Unwanted Baggage
May 24, 2017
LITTLE ROCK – Booking vacations online can be very challenging because it can be difficult for consumers to verify what they are actually purchasing. Arkansans value their vacation time and want to make sure their hard-earned money is well spent. While most vacation booking websites are legitimate, there are a few unscrupulous sites that scams users out of money by accepting payment for a hotel or house rental that does not actually exist.
“It is easy for scammers to hide behind their computer screens and set up fake travel sites,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “They can make these sites look legitimate by stealing images from actual travel sites, causing confusion for potential buyers. It is important for Arkansans to do their homework when booking, and remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
The Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from these fake sites:
- Ask friends and family for recommendations of vacation spots, booking agents and travel sites.
- Call to verify the accommodations for each part of your trip, including travel, hotel, rental car and excursions, even when booking through a travel agent. Write down the confirmation number and any information about the person you spoke with to confirm the reservations.
- Consider purchasing cancellation insurance and get a copy of the company’s cancellation policy. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association has a list of licensed travel insurance companies.
- Pay via credit card so that the charges can be disputed in an instance that you are not happy with the services. It is easier to dispute charges on a credit card than check or cash.
- Ask about mandatory resort fees for amenities such as a swimming pool, fitness center or internet access. Consumers are required to pay the fees whether the amenities are used or not. Hotel often do not include these fees in the price of their rooms.
Travel scams can come in the form of fake sweepstakes and only require a “small” processing fee or a credit card number verification, or sometimes scammers will send a robocall or cold-call to consumers claiming they have been chosen for a vacation. Oftentimes scammers will use high-pressure tactics to convince consumers their scam is legitimate. Another sign of a scam is that the person on the other end of the phone has very little information about the vacation spot.
In February, Rutledge filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against The Resort Place and its owners, Jay Allen and Dora Ann Edmondson. The Resort Place offered services to vacation-property owners seeking to rent their properties and to vacation-rental customers seeking to book a property online. Although consumers paid The Resort Place, the reservation was never booked, or consumers had to pay for substitute accommodations.
Consumers who believe they have been victims of a travel scam should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.