We may not all agree on if pineapple belongs on pizza, but we can all agree that vacation is fantastic. What makes it even better? Getting a great deal on a vacation. And it’s not just getting a good price on flights and an overwater bungalow. It’s getting great value for adventures and activities once you’re there – from snorkeling to a spa day to the swim up bar at happy hour.
The problem arises when scammers get involved, or anyone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Scammers love to work in areas like tourist zones where people are out of their element and may not know the area or the value of things locally or don’t have the currency conversion down yet.
Anyone can be a target for scammers while you’re on vacation. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, senior citizens are often a target of these attempted scams. In large part because seniors who are traveling often have financial resources that criminals are interested in. Seniors are often motivated by a desire to find special purchases for friends and family members — especially grandkids! This desire to please others can make them an easier emotional target for scammers offering family vacations to tropical paradise or family-friendly destinations like Disney World.
Here are five common scams aimed at seniors — and some easy tips to help you or someone you love avoid becoming the next target.
Always be skeptical of mail
As you look through the daily pile of mail you see a postcard or “official” looking envelope declaring that you’ve won a luxurious trip to a fun and exotic location.
Why it’s a scam: Often these scams use vague language by offering free airfare, but give no real, concrete information about the trip — and here’s the catch — there are many, many fees required that can often add up to thousands of dollars. Usually far more than the cost of using a proper travel agent to help you book a trip. In addition, these “free trip” solicitations are often lead-ins to lengthy sales pushes on time-share investments. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also recommends steering clear of these. The meetings are required as terms of the trip otherwise you will have further fees added. All in all, it ends up being a terrible deal.
How to avoid becoming a victim: If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. Jennifer Karchmer, a staff writer for CNNMoney, writes, “Before you pay for any travel package, get all the details in writing, including the total cost and refund policy.”
If a company isn’t willing and expecting to offer everything in writing without you needing to ask, take your money elsewhere.
A “deal” lands in your email inbox
In this scenario, you receive an intriguing email that invites you to visit a website. On the site page, you’ll be invited to fill out a form in order to be entered for a chance to win a free vacation.
Why it’s a scam. Magically, when you fill out the form, you will then receive an email congratulating you on being a winner — and prompting you to call an 800 number. Once you call, you’ll be asked to give your credit card number to “hold your spot” and claim your prize. You’ll likely never hear from this company again after that phone call.
How to avoid becoming a victim: Never, never, never (ever) give your credit card information over the phone unless you know the company you are dealing with (like your bank, or a company that you make purchases from often and know their track record).
Your cell phone rings
The phone rings (usually during dinner) and you are enthusiastically informed that you’ve won a free cruise or trip. Like the promotional postcard or mailer, the language they use will be intriguing but extremely vague — words like luxury, exotic, five-star, once-in-a-lifetime — and the pressure will be strong to make a decision immediately. All the while, dinner is getting cold.
Why it’s a scam: Reputable travel agents don’t need to use such heavy-handed tactics. They’ll gladly outline any details you ask for — timing of the trip, any associated fees, allowances, total costs, restrictions, and refund policies. They’ll take the time to walk you through everything. They will not ask for credit card info over the phone on a first call, if ever.
How to avoid becoming a victim: Above all, listen to your gut. If something seems fishy, pay attention to that and confidently say “no.” Karchmer’s advice: “Request that your phone number be added to their ‘do not call’ list and get off the phone as quickly as possible.”
The Better Business Bureau (which allows you to check the reputation of any real business) offers these five simple Scam Red Flags:
- Salespeople who use high-pressure tactics, like demanding your credit card number before explaining all the conditions of an offer.
- Postcard or mailings that require you to pay a fee or to purchase membership in a travel club, in order to claim a vacation.
- Low rates on air travel requiring you to purchase an additional ticket for a companion.
- Companies that require you to wait at least 60 days before taking your trip.
In any of these situations, it’s perfectly acceptable 9and advised) for you to flatly refuse and exit the conversation immediately. It’s your money, and your time: you deserve a good experience. Stick with agents and companies whose reputations you trust, and make the most out of every trip you take!
Ready to plan a vacation with a company that has your best interests in mind?
Vacation is supposed to be fun and stress free, not spent wondering if you just fell for a scam. Get in touch with us and together, we’ll start planning the trip of your dreams, ensuring you’re getting a great deal with reputable vendors. You deserve to have the vacation of a lifetime!