Stretching Your Dollar... Preventing summer vacation scams

Charlotte, NC - By Maureen O'Boyle - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Memorial Day weekend is almost here and it's the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

If you are searching the internet for a deal on a summer vacation, beware.

Valerie Walker and her sister signed up and paid for a trip to the Essence Music Festival only to have the trip canceled at the last minute.

"I have lost $380, there are some other individuals that have lost out on $540," Walker said.

The women did not know much about the company arranging their trip, but saw the website ad thought it looked legit.

"Her [website] was really put together well, so I was like this looks good, she has everything mapped out, everything that I need to go to," Walker said.

When the trip started to fall apart, Walker quickly figured out that looks aren't everything.  As she and her traveling partners tried to get a refund, they discovered their travel coordinator was not an accredited travel agent.

Tom Bartholomy from the Better Business Bureau recommends that you make sure you do your homework to protect yourself.

"The main accreditation is through the International Air Transport Association (IATA)," Bartholomy said.

So check your travel agent's standing with the organization.  Bartholomy says there have been scammers who have figured out how to put the IATA logo and link on their web site, but aren't actually in good standing.

"Go to the site and make sure they're still up to date and you can have that comfort level, if there is a link, click through and make sure they are members in good standing."

Bartholomy says take it a step further.  If your agent is booking a trip on a cruise, take 20 minutes and follow up with the cruise company.  Make sure you have a reservation, same thing with airplane reservations.

As with any company you hire, you should check with the Better Business Bureau and check their rating.  See if the company has any complaints.  Remember, you work hard all year long so you can take a summer vacation.  Don't let a scammer take your dream and turn it into a nightmare.

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