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Online travel booking: Deal or scam?

Posted June 15, 2018 7:15 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:14 a.m. EDT

— Summer travelers looking to book vacation deals online should be wary after the state attorney general's office said more than a dozen people have reported being misled while attempting to purchase travel packages.

Travel experts says consumers should be wary when attempting to book travel online.

"There may not be any sign that it's a scam," said Paul Iacono, who works for Travel Experts in Cary. "And that's the problem. These guys are very good at what they do."

A family that traveled from Apex to New York after booking a vacation deal online was unable to find the apartment they booked or reach the manager.

"It was dark (and) I was sort of helpless," said Jason Stone. "And I didn't know what to do."

The incident turned to be a miscommunication but in many instances that's not the case.

Even those who work in the travel industry can fall victim.

Iacono said a colleague felt the pain when booking a room for a client.

"Someone had hacked the hotel's website and was taking reservations and collecting money but it wasn't the hotel," he said. "Her client got to the hotel and discovered they had no room (and) no reservation."

A scam can be as simple as not getting what the consumer paid for. If the traveler finds the room or resort is nothing like the pictures posted online, then they have been scammed.

Said Iacono: "It could be rat infested. They could have cameras set up in the bedroom, which has happened a number of times."

Experts say there are things consumers can do to protect themselves:

  1. Google the address of the lodging destination and compare if it matches what was advertised online.
  2. Pay all travel charges with a credit card.
  3. Book accommodations with a trusted source.
  4. Call the owner or look for a reference from someone who has stayed at the property in the past to get more information.

The state attorney general's office can provide consumers with more information about complaints filed against a travel agent, travel company or rental property landlord. Consumers can also file a complaint with the office for any travel planning abuses.