AG warns of vacation scams

By Chris Dickerson | May 18, 2015

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers to be on the lookout for potential scams when making travel arrangements this summer.

Summer is a busy travel season in West Virginia and across the nation, which means it is a peak time for travel-related scams. Every year, thousands of consumers across the country report being swindled by too-good-to-be-true deals and “act now” sales pitches that over-promise and under-deliver.

“While many West Virginians are making plans to travel this summer, it is important to remember that scammers don’t take a vacation,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Vacation scams can range from free travel offers to too-good-to-be-true prices for lodging.

"We urge consumers to do extensive research so their vacation can be spent creating happy memories, not trying to fix bad experiences.”

Some consumers have reported receiving postcards, phone calls, or emails offering free vacations, perks for attending a sales presentation, or promises of huge travel discounts for becoming a travel club member. Other consumers have been tricked by online lodging offers that promise spectacular deals on rental houses, condos, or hotels, and only discover the offer was a ruse when they arrive at their destination and discover the property either does not exist or is not available for rental.

“Some scammers will even comb online real estate listings and will use data about the property, which is owned by someone else, to design a fake rental ad,” Morrisey said. “We urge people to research any vacation offer thoroughly, either online or by calling experts, including visitors’ bureaus in the region, to make sure the lodging you pick is best for your family.”

Morrisey also said travelers shouldn’t underestimate the power of reviews from family members and friends, as well as reputable travel websites. He also reminded travelers that paying with a credit card provides consumers with certain protections that enable them to dispute certain charges for services not provided.

While not all travel scams are easy to spot, Attorney General Morrisey offers some additional tips to help consumers avoid vacation scams:

  • Do not give credit card numbers to any person or business unless you are ready to be charged for a product or service. Be wary of any company that asks to be paid via money order or pre-paid debit card.

  • Carefully read the fine print of any ad that offers a tremendous vacation for a minimal price. Similarly, be wary of ads that only provide a few details about the offer.

  • Be cautious of firms that ask you to pay before confirming reservations. Most reputable travel agents will confirm before payment.

  • Deal with an established company. If the name or reputation is not familiar to you, check with relatives, friends, or contact your local Better Business Bureau at or by calling 1-866-228-1820.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the firm, request written information on the total cost of the vacation and all items included. Ask about your right to cancel and the availability of cancellation insurance.

  • Be wary of vacation offers that are “good today only.”

  • The better a vacation package sounds, the more thoroughly you need to verify the details.

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