Over the last month, our coverage of the five worst travel scams and the 10 worst travel ripoffs generated a lot of comments from readers -- and even a few disagreements.
Also, I've had several follow-up calls from reporters asking something like this:
"Do travelers face any scams and ripoffs beyond the ones you covered?"
Sadly, the short answer is, "Yes, as a traveler, you face more than five bad scams and more than 10 ripoffs." So here are a few more traps for the unwary.
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Really Crooked Scams
The worst scams are those in which the operator of the scam is really crooked, with no intention of delivering anything, and instead simply planning to keep your money. Among those:
- Guaranteed timeshare sale. A few agencies target timeshare owners who no longer want their interval and want to get out from under the various payments and maybe recover a part of their ownership cost. These agencies advertise that they'll help you "get rid of your timeshare" in exchange for a stiff fee up front. According to the Timeshare Users Group (TUG), those fees can be as high as $7,000. In reality, all you get rid of is your money. Until the timeshare actually sells, you're still on the hook for the payments, and the agency may well list your timeshare for something like $1 or even 1 cent on eBay or craigslist. The defense is to inform yourself about the realities of selling an unwanted timeshare and to sell it through legitimate channels. A nominal fee for an online listing is legitimate, but not a big upfront payment. TUG is the best place to start.
- Identity theft. I've read a few reports recently about an identity theft scam that is being pulled at some hotels. A few minutes after you settle into your room, you get a call from someone saying, "This is the front desk. We made a mistake in entering your information, so we need you to repeat the credit card numbers you gave us when you registered." Of course, the call is from a crook who noted your arrival and room number, and your credit card information is immediately used to pile up some purchases. This sort of scam isn't confined to travel, but apparently hotel guests are especially vulnerable. The defense is obvious: Don't ever give out your credit card information to anyone who calls you and asks for it; either agree to call back or go to the desk personally.
Our earlier report covered phony tickets and phony travel insurance.
Disguising the Real Deal
Several scams operate by misrepresenting the nature of what the operator is promising. Among the more notorious: