Consumer Watchdog: Be wary of scams while planning summer getaways

Consumer Watchdog - Sarah Hite Hando | April 22nd, 2017 1:00 pm - updated: 1:00 pm.

It’s difficult for me to believe that just weeks ago this area was covered in a sea of snow, with backhoes and salt trucks creeping around the streets trying to dig everyone out and make the roads just passable.

The temperatures last Sunday climbing near the 80-degree mark was really a respite from the wintry mess that was March.

As the weather heats up and you start to come out of hibernation, you might begin to make plans for summer travel. And who doesn’t look forward to getting out of Dodge and spending some time in the sun?

You may be taking a break from work and daily stresses, but scammers don’t take a vacation.

The most important thing to remember when booking a trip, flight, hotel or car rental — work with companies you trust. This may take some research on your part. You can check the Better Business Bureau’s website ( to see if a company is in good standing with the organization. If a deal seems too good to be true, I’m sorry to say it probably is.

The Federal Trade Commission’s consumer information website also suggests calling the hotel to confirm your reservations and accommodations instead of just relying on online communication. It will put your mind at ease talking to a real person about your upcoming plans.

Speaking of talking to a real person, ask people you know and trust for recommendations. Who better to trust than friends and family?

Check the cancellation and refund policies of the company and make sure you have all questions answered before you book. Life happens, and if something changes your plans, be prepared to deal with any fees associated with cancelling or rescheduling your reservations.

I wrote in a previous column that I had gotten voicemails saying I’d won a vacation sweepstakes even though I never entered a contest, and I briefly entertained the idea of returning the call. These kinds of scams are incredibly common and, if your curiosity gets the best of you, here are ways to confirm the call is a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission:

• The caller says the vacation is free, but you still need to pay some fees.

• The caller asks for your credit card information in order to claim your “prize.”

• The caller contacts you about a free vacation, even though you didn’t enter a contest. (See above.)

• The caller won’t give you any concrete details about the trip.

• You have to sign up for some sort of membership in order to claim the “prize.”

• The caller isn’t a live human — it’s a recording.

The same goes for emails, too. Be wary if you get a notice out of the blue about a dream vacation. If you fall for it, it could turn into a nightmare.

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Consumer Watchdog

Sarah Hite Hando

Sarah Hite Hando is the Times Leader business editor. Reach her at 570-704-3945 or [email protected]