Travel tricksters abound in Holland

Started by Newshound, June 23, 2004, 19:29:10

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Newshound

Travel tricksters abound

Consumers in the Holland area, like everyone else, are always looking for great deals on vacations in the summer. As a result, many fall for tricks or scams that result in wasted time and lost money instead of wonderful vacation memories.

A typical travel scam may begin with a fax at your office from an official-looking promoter claiming Orlando vacations or Caribbean cruises for $199. Or you get a mailing or phone call giving you the "great news" that you have been selected to receive a "free" vacation. You quickly call the company to book your cruise or "deluxe resort weekend," but later learn that you must pay port taxes, service charges or buy membership in a travel club, often costing hundreds of dollars more. Many victims receive cheap space-available promotional rooms or just worthless "certificates" that have numerous restrictions which make taking their trips almost impossible. Some folks receive nothing at all. The "great deal" becomes terrible in a hurry.

How can you tell if the vacation deal is bogus? Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics like demanding your credit card number immediately to "hold" the prize. If they ask you to "identify yourself" by giving them your credit card number or they want to send your "travel package" to your home by FedEx or UPS overnight (often a trick to avoid the U.S. postal inspectors), beware!

If an offer seems too cheap, most often the promoter isn't telling you such things as:

* The "luxury hotel" may be miles from the beach and in terrible condition. Many "winners" pay hundreds of dollars to "upgrade" their poor accommodations.

* The "cruise" may actually just take you across a harbor to a timeshare development, where you are stuck listening to a five-hour high-pressure pitch for risky investment condominiums.

* The advance payments do not cover major expenses like transportation to hotels, meals, customs fees and taxes. Your final out-of-pocket costs could easily be as much as booking a real vacation through your local travel agent.

Always check the Better Business Bureau report on the vacation seller. Visit our Web site, www.holland.bbb.org, or call us 24 hours a day at (800) 6-THEBBB. We will report if we know the company and whether it has received complaints. If you have problems, use our Web site complaint form or mail details to us at: BBB, 40 Pearl, N.W., Suite 354, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Our office serves Holland and all of Ottawa and Allegan counties.

Ken Vander Meeden is president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan.




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