Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Officials Warn of Travel Scams

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Officials Warn of Travel Scams

Article excerpt

Those who book their hotel rooms and flights before going on vacations should be very careful when paying online in advance, AAA said in a new warning to travelers. Hotel booking scams are increasing. And it is often very difficult for travelers to get refunds when they discover they have been deceived.

The AAA urges travelers to book rooms and services directly with a hotel or airline, using the telephone or the company's website. Although a hotel's name might be part of a website, consumers should check the address to make sure they are not communicating with a third-party vendor.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association estimates hotel booking scams are already costing consumers more than $220 million a year.

Matt Sutton, from the Rosen Group, in New York City, said booking sites often "mislead consumers and many times take their money and don't even book them a room.

"This is a growing problem, especially with the use of smartphones and other mobile devices that make it harder and harder to tell what is legitimate and what is not, Sutton said.

"During an online search of travel sites for your next trip, an AAA press release states, "you might see ads for super-low hotel room or car rental rates. Or maybe you'll notice to-die-for pricing on a cruise or tour.

"It's possible that the rock-bottom rates are valid, but keep in mind that using a third-party booking site comes with a fair amount of risk.

Amy Moreno, travel manager for AAA Arizona, said, "Some sites look legitimate but aren't. These sites - which can resemble legitimate booking travel sites - will take your money but not actually book a room, flight or car, leaving you without a reservation when you arrive.

Sutton said the scams are a serious issue that he would like to see the Federal Trade Commission act on.

"We would like them to put out some new regulations to stop this kind of thing from happening. The FTC has acted in the past, Sutton said.

Individuals can file their own complaints with the FTC at ftc.gov/ complaint.

All members of the Arizona and Florida Congressional delegations have signed letters to the FTC asking for their help.

"A lot of these websites are completely illegal. …

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