Anatomy of a Travel Scam

Tips on how to avoid fraudulent or misleading offers

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Research the company offering the deal. Some scams are easy to spot, but even deals that have an aura of legitimacy can turn out to be fraudulent or misleading. "When you're offered $99 for a seven-day getaway to Mexico, I think common sense dictates that there is some kind of catch," says Saglie. "I think the consumer is perhaps more readily subjected to practices that on the surface may not be that obvious but … that do end up inflating the actual cost of the vacations above and beyond what companies are used to advertising." 

To make sure the deal is sound, do some background research on the company that is offering it. "It never hurts to research even the well-known names, but if it's a company you've never heard of, definitely research them because you have no idea what kind of reputation it has until you do your research," says Southwick. To help consumers, local Better Business Bureaus maintain reliability reports on a wide range of companies. 

With the rise of online travel promotions, it has become even more important for consumers to do their homework. "Some of the best opportunities exist online, but some of the major pitfalls live on the information superhighway as well," says Saglie.