Booking a last-minute summer trip? Texans have a warning: ‘$1,806 GONE!’

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It was a weekend bachelorette party for a best friend. 

The group had narrowed down the location out of state and activities for the trip in May.

“I found the website about ATV 4-wheel riding and I emailed about details,” said the complaint made to the BBB Scam Tracker. “I went on the website, reserved, added the date, location of pickup, number of people, and the time.”

The package deal was supposed to also include horseback riding and ziplining. After repeated confirmations the complaint said the group never got picked up and have yet to hear from the company.

“TOOK OUR MONEY, LIED, AND IGNORED ME! $1,806 GONE!” the complaint — one of hundreds made recently — detailed.

Texans out hundreds of dollars

The Better Business Bureau explained that in the first six months of 2021, Americans have lost over $370,000 to travel incidents across the nation and over $190,000 just in the past two months, according to reports made to its Scam Tracker. 

“Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable site, check their customer reviews, any history of complaints,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. “It is important that travelers spend the time to research their lodging arrangements, rentals and any deals or discounts that they are offered by a business and do not allow a sense of urgency to rush them through the decision-making process.” 

The BBB’s top five most-reported recently include:

  • Vacation rentals. Promise low fees and great amenities.
  • “Free” vacations. Could come with hidden costs.
  • “Free” wi-fi connections. May obtain your credit card information.
  • Fake third-party booking sites. You pay with a credit card and, receive a call from the company asking to verify name, address, banking information.
  • Timeshare resales. A timeshare owner looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. 

Booking red flags

“View multiple sites, compare prices, and when at all possible, call and reach out to the property owner. A red flag this might not be legitimate is if the property owner or management company only wants to communicate via email,” said Massey.

The Texas Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission which tracks fraud cases explained that other red flags include, not being able to get details about cancelation and refund policies in writing before paying and also requests to wire money and use gift cards.

The federal agency also explained online that travelers should ignore calls, texts and emails about special vacation offers adding not to open any links that haven’t been directly verified. 

FTC and Attorney General’s office tips for travelers:

  • Use a credit card. This gives you more protection than paying by cash and it could be easier to dispute unauthorized charges. 
  • Confirming reservations independently. Make sure what you’re booking is a “five-star” hotel or rental property. 
  • Requesting information. Go directly to the hotel, rental home or airline and ask what features are included. 

Travelers are encouraged to report concerns to the Texas Office of the Attorney General. A report can also be made with the FTC or the BBB Scam Tracker.

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