“Receive FREE cruise tickets to travel around the world, any place you desire. Click the link, fill in the form, and we will email you with the gift!”
“The Airlines are giving away free flights to 100s of lucky customers. Get your tickets now and click the link below!
Those who don’t travel a lot would most likely reject the offer. How can you get such a deal for free? It can’t be true. Experienced travelers, however, know that such discounts actually exist. You just need to qualify for them.
What we believe is one thing, but what they deliver can be very different. You may need to pay registration fees, enter a contest, and a long list of steps to claim your free vacations.
Have you ever wondered how travel agents profit from free vacations? They’re sending “free vacations” like these to thousands of people. Something isn’t right…
- How To Pick A Travel Agent?
- Types Of Travel Agency Scams
- Warning Signs Of A Bogus Travel Agency
- Guide To Prevent Travel Agency Scams
- The Bottom Line
How To Pick A Travel Agent?
With all the offers out there, it’s impossible to find the best travel deals unless you constantly learn about the sector. That’s when travel agents come in: they offer advice and a plan for lodging, transport, entertainment, among others.
You tell them what you want, and they find the most suitable plan for you. They get a commission when you book using their accreditation number. Hiring an agent may cost you money, but it saves the time of planning it yourself.
Bogus Travel Agents will sell you exactly what you want regardless of whether the offer exists or not! Because you trust them to contact other businesses, they can misstate prices and services. You make the reservation, but what you find on the travel day has nothing to do with what you asked for. Most of the time, you never receive those “free tickets”.
When it comes to your dream vacations, there’s nothing worse than realizing the scam too late, once you’re already on the location. Fake tour guides, hotels, car rentals, or entertainment activities: a true tourist trap.
Types Of Travel Agency Scams
Do you know anybody who ever got free vacations? It happens very rarely. You may find some travel agents who offered the real deal. But these companies aren’t giving thousands of free tickets to the thousands of people they pitch.
Instead, victims fall for advance-fee scams, buy useless travel cards, or get their identity lost.
Apart from travel agents, identity thieves can also scam travelers. A con man who wants to move to another city can use a victim’s account to book a last-minute flight. If necessary, the scammer can create a fake ID to get through security.
The travel agent won’t recognize identity theft, and the victim won’t recover the money. By the time they find out, the con man’s flight is in process/completed with no way to undo it. We call it the last-minute buyer scam.
What follows below are travel company scams, that have a broader target and not a single person who has been suspected to identity theft:
#1 Prize Registration Fee
You’re lucky enough to get a free trip (all included) if you pay a registration fee. What if you pay the amount? They ask for another fee.
In short, anybody with a credit card can get the prize as if it was just another deal. You get no free vacations, or the agent offers you something your provider didn’t agree. You get nothing after you send the money.
#2 Travel Agent Memberships
You click on the ad that shows a vacation offer for a low price and an asterisk. By the time you get the final contract, you find dozens of unmentioned, creative reasons why you don’t qualify.
- You need to get our traveler’s card first.
- Only our VIP members can access coupons and discounted offers
- You had to show the promotion before the seminar, not after it.
- This offer is only a concept, excluding all fees, limited offers, and customization.
#3 Fake Travel Agent Jobs
Would you like to make a living as a travel agent working from your home? With today’s scammer’s messages, it’s a dream come true!
- You register your credit card on their site, “so you can receive client payments.”
- You buy a starter kit and license— a useless travel agent’s card— for some hundreds of dollars.
- They pay you (or not pay at all) to send junk mail and email to several locations in the US and find clients.
As they steal your information, you send them money on tools before you make your first dollar.
Sometimes, you can make decent money as a work-from-home agent. Just make sure you’re not working for the front business of criminal money launderers. Those guys don’t mind paying you thousands a month to get rid of their legal burdens.
Warning Signs Of A Bogus Travel Agency
#1 Pricing Tactics
How do you get more people to buy an expensive plan? You show low trial offers first and tie the big payments to the back. Agencies promoting low-cost services could include hidden fees later.
Of course, you never hear of them in the offer. The ad shows you the low price with an asterisk, meaning the price can change. You don’t find the terms until you read the fine print of the contract.
A travel agent’s work is organizing and simplifying for you. Be wary of complex payment terms.
#2 Different Seller And Provider
Your seller may not be your trip provider, meaning you won’t get the best price due to commissions. Now, you probably contacted the middleman because he offered better prices. How is that possible?
That’s the problem of your seller not being your provider. You trust the agent to do the work for you, but the provider doesn’t need to agree on everything the travel agent tells you. The offer they sell you may not exist!
What usually happens is:
- You get the lowest offer thinking it’s the definitive deal.
- You pay the agent the amount, who organizes the trip.
- You start your trip thinking you paid for everything. But the services demand you the real sum. The agent has been understating prices without telling anyone.
- The agent is out of reach, no refunds available.
Perhaps the agent has been selling expired offers, like discounts for reserving months in advance. Before you take your agent’s plan, consult it with your provider.
#3 Payment Methods
The best offer in the world can still turn into a scam with the wrong payment method. If the agent doesn’t consider buyer protection, you could pay the amount and still get nothing.
In business, you don’t pay upfront unless it’s necessary and the brand is reputable. Some agents won’t take your amount but freeze it until the reservation day. Here are some situations you could find yourself:
- You pay for the service in advance, but it doesn’t exist.
- You use an unsafe payment gateway with no data protection
- You can’t undo the payment after you sign the agreement.
Guide To Prevent Travel Agency Scams
Nobody wants to find out (too late) that a scammer has ruined our vacations. Thankfully, today’s travelers have become more aware of the many cons of the industry.
If you never try to prevent them, you’ll never know when you will fall for one. Bogus travel agents use hooks to actively search for people like you. That’s why we have to actively avoid them to find the great legit companies.
#1 Who Are You Talking To?
Before judging the offer or the agent, ask: is it real? We don’t just refer to an accredited company with a website. Do they have real stories of satisfied clients? Do they have a history and reputation?
I take the cheapest offer from a Nobody, no-one can guarantee they will deliver. Words may sell well, but actions get the results.
Visit the American Society Of Travel Advisors (ASTA). You can browse for certified travel advisors, find agency reviews, and find the latest trends in the industry. An agent with ASTA Certified will likely make your travel experience better.
#2 Read Reviews
It’s not enough to have good reviews. How do you know they didn’t manipulate them?
- Did most clients post the review the same week?
- When did they get the most reviews? Last month?
- Do all say the same? Are they long and sound like an ad?
- Are there critical reviews, but the quantity isn’t big enough to affect the rating?
- Do all of them come from the same website?
- Do other travel agencies know about this one?
- Can you find audio/video reviews and testimonials?
- Did you choose the agent because of referrals and credibility, or because they reached out to you?
If you’ve spotted other red flags, reviews could be fake. Are you looking at honest experiences or just what they want to make you believe?
#3 Avoid Long-Term Reservations
You have sixty days to demand a credit card chargeback. Travelers expect reservations to be cheaper and convenient unless you deal with con men.
Reserving without buyer protection can easily turn into an advance fee scam.
- We can’t work without reservations.
- All hotels are overbooked. You have to reserve months in advance. If one of our reservations cancels, we will let you know.
- We require our clients to use our X payment method.
The simplest way to avoid it? Buyer protection: pay with a safe payment method (credit card, paypal…) or pay a bit more so you can recover funds in case of emergency.
#4 What Do You NOT Want?
Travel agents arrange destinations, offer advice, and plan your trip. Remember that plans are just that: plans. Plans are subject to change and don’t guarantee you will get what was agreed. Anybody who travels often knows things never go as planned.
If you deal with a scammer, they may plan for what you need to know, but then take advantage of you with hotel scams and tourist traps. A dishonest agent chooses what to show on your plan and what not to.
Because of it, you must be clear about what you don’t want as much as what you want. For you, ignoring a fact may mean you don’t want it in your plan. But for the agent, it could mean you don’t care about it, so they will decide based on their own interests.
#5 Avoid Travel Groups In General
An agent you asked for advice may have tried to bundle his service with a travel product. Vacation memberships and cards, for example. They sell you a +$100 special membership that will magically let you travel almost for free anywhere anytime.
If getting those privileges were as simple as giving your card number, everyone would be living on exotic cruises. Why would all these businesses reduce their ROI to give free rides to customers with cards? What your travel agent says isn’t what other companies tell you.
That doesn’t mean these perks don’t exist. They do, but they aren’t as good as they say, nor easy to get. Even if you got that card, the business has no obligation to give you benefits. It gives a preference, not a guarantee.
The Bottom Line
Find a top-rated travel agent at the best price? Not easy, but possible! Everybody boasts about being the best, most of them are scams, and only a few will deliver.
Remember that working with the best agent doesn’t guarantee a dream vacation. When it comes to the perfect trip, nobody has the same standards as you. It’s your responsibility to find the best people and communicate the right message to get the perfect deal.