Better Business Bureau: Beware of spring break scams

CONTACT: Lisa Schiller, Media Relations

PHONE: 414- 847- 6055

FAX: 414-302- 0355

E-MAIL: [email protected]

Milwaukee, Wis. – Spring break is just around the corner, which means now is the time to prepare your vacation plans. Planning your trip may require making reservations with multiple businesses whether online or over the phone. A travel agency can make the process of booking your spring vacation quick and easy, but using the wrong one could turn your vacation into a nightmare. The Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin (BBB) is advising consumers to do their research before booking their next vacation.

In 2014, BBB received nearly 8,000 complaints nationally against travel agencies and bureaus. Most complaints alleged consumers felt misled by travel offers that failed to deliver on promises. In some cases, consumers paid money for travel arrangements that were never made.

“Many people are planning to escape the brutal winter and head to warmer climates and spring break is the perfect opportunity,” said Ran Hoth, CEO and president. “When you begin planning your vacation, it could be tempting to accept that too-good-to-be-true offer. BBB recommends doing your research and finding a business you can trust.”

To ensure your trip will be worry free, follow these tips from your BBB:

* Be alert for travel scams. Unsolicited mail, email and websites offering deeply discounted travel packages could leave you out of a vacation and your money if you’re not careful. Watch out for scams saying that you’ve “won a trip” or too good to be true prices. Generally if you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift. Be especially leery if an offer is unsolicited.

* Do your homework. Ask family and friends to recommend a business they’ve used and check with to see free Business Reviews. You can also utilize BBB’s Accredited Business directory to find an accredited business.

* Get everything in writing. Get all the details of your vacation in writing, including travel itineraries, booking confirmations and vouchers. Also review and keep a copy of the business’s cancellation and refund policies.

* Verify reservations. Get the contact information for the airline, rental car company and hotel. Call prior to departure to confirm all arrangements.

* Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover such things as trip cancellations or medical emergencies. Certain businesses and policies have different levels of coverage based on what plan you purchase. Ask a lot of questions, and always read the fine print to see what’s covered.

* Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.

Likewise, be wary of the “grandparent scam” which is typically higher this time of year when scammers see the popularity of spring break trips to carry out their scheme. Relatives of travelers, especially seniors, should be skeptical of calls claiming to be from students stranded in distant locations. These scams usually begin with a call from someone claiming to be a person you know (often a child or grandchild) who preys upon the relative by stating they need money to get out of jail or pay for a medical emergency.

If you receive such a call, remember that a request for you to send money by wire transfer or prepaid MoneyPak cards to someone you have not verified is often not legitimate and nearly impossible to reverse. One easy way to confirm a family member’s identity is to ask a simple question such as the name of the family pet or where they attend school.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at . The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Wisconsin was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.