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Spotting summer travel scams

Travelers try to beat the rush at the airport

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Tess Vigeland: Take a moment and clear your mind of pre-vacation worries. Forget high gas prices. Forget higher airline prices. You are going on a vacation this summer.

But here's something to worry about once your trip is underway: Some deals are too good to be true.

Joining us is Pauline Frommer, the creator of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks and she's here to talk about travel scams.

Pauline, what are some warning signs for consumers?

Pauline Frommer: Well, you know it is a scam if a travel company contacts you out of the blue. A legitimate travel company doesn't need to do that. Other common scams are when they tell you that if you join this travel club for X amount of money, you're going to save hundreds and hundreds of dollars. There are a couple of legitimate travel clubs, but I'd say the vast majority are just scam operations.

Vigeland: Well, let's go ahead and travel and actually get on the plane or the cruise ship, but here we still have issues with potentially getting scammed. What's the most obvious technique that you should be on the look out for?

Frommer: Well, when you have people meeting you at the airport
the cab
they know about, that can often be a scam or worse. There's another really more and more common hotel scam: It's 11 o'clock at night, you're in bed and you get a call -- you think it's from the front desk clerk -- saying, "Oops, sorry. We don't seem to have the right credit card number for you. Does your credit card end in these numbers?" and you say, "Oh my, no!" and they say "Well, just give us your credit card number now and what is the exact spelling of your name?" and it's a very common way because people at 11 o'clock, they don't want to get dressed and go back down to the front desk, but in a good hotel, they're not going to call you at 11 o'clock. Even in a bad hotel, they're not going to call you at 11 o'clock to re-get your credit card number; They'll wait 'til the morning.

Vigeland: So that's pretty much like being stateside in your own home. You never want to give out your credit card number over the phone, especially if someone is calling you and you are not calling them.

Frommer: Right, never ever give your credit card number to anyone. Unfortunately, identity theft is a big problem and it can happen to you when you're travelling.

Vigeland: You know, one popular vacation option is taking a cruise and a lot of times, people go out and shop like crazy at ports of call. What are the most important things to keep in mind if that's your idea of a good time?

Frommer: Well, I'd say never have anything shipped back to you unless you really, really know the vendor. I once got a letter from a reader who went to Istanbul, bought what he thought was a gorgeous carpet, but when he got it home or when they sent it home to him, it was a cheap, synthetic carpet that they had switched with the one he thought he had bought.

Vigeland: What about how to avoid being overcharged for everything from a cab ride to a tour around town. How do you know what's a valid price and what's not?

Frommer: Well, you do your homework. Pick up a good guidebook, go on the internet and you figure out how much this taxi in from the airport should cost and how much the tours are going for in the location that you're in. Unfortunately, sometimes its the established businesses within the travel industry that are putting in these hidden charges. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers just recently did a study and they found that in 2007, the American hotel industry charged consumers $2 billion in hidden fees: A resort fee for going to a hotel that has a pool whether or not they used the pool; they're getting charged if they cancel their reservation less than a week in advance -- it used to be that you could cancel 24 hours in advance. So its more important than ever to read all the fine print before you decide on your hotel?

Vigeland: Are the required to put that in the fine print? I mean, if they're hidden fees, how do you know what to look for?

Frommer: In most states, they are required, but sometimes, you know, it'll be on the fourth page of their website, so you really have to search for these fees. You usually can find them and if you ask, they should disclose them over the phone. But you have to ask; they're not going to tell you.

Vigeland: Alright. Pauline Frommer is the creator of Pauline Frommer Guidebooks. Thanks so much for your help.

Frommer: Thank you.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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