BBB: Avoiding Summer Travel Headaches

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(KTVI) – Independence Day is next week, which means we are in the middle of summer travel.

Whether it's a road trip or European extravaganza, you've got to be on guard for travel scams and the potential for identity theft.

Chris Thetford  explains the Better Business Bureau can help avoid both.

Vacation Security Tips Can Keep Your Identity Safe When Traveling

Going on vacation means you can kick back and relax, right? Sleeping in or easing up on schedules is fine, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises travelers to stay on guard against identity theft.

“Pickpockets and other thieves often target tourist destinations, looking for travelers who may be distracted or unfamiliar with their surroundings,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “Hotel, restaurant or airport wi-fi networks may have poor security, which can make checking bank accounts or other personal data risky. You can’t be too careful.”

Travelers can protect themselves by staying alert to their surroundings and putting wallets and travel documents where thieves would have a hard time stealing them, like in an inside coat pocket or travel wallet worn under your clothes. Be especially careful in crowded areas or on buses or other public transportation.

Other ways to protect your identity include:

  • Avoid announcing your travel plans on social media. Thieves could target your home for a burglary while you’re away.
  • Stop your mail and newspapers while you’re gone. An overflowing mailbox can be a tempting target for someone who wants to steal your personal information. Piled up papers could tip off thieves that your home is unoccupied.
  • Remove unnecessary documents like library cards or other items that contain personal information from your wallet. Bring only what you expect to use.
  • Set up a travel alert for your credit card account. You may also consider putting a credit freeze on your accounts to prevent someone from opening accounts while you’re out of pocket.
  • Leave your computer at home. If you must bring it with you, update anti-virus or anti-spyware programs before you leave home, and avoid using public wi-fi networks to access financial accounts. Never leave your computer unattended in a public place.
  • Use only bank ATMs. Avoid those placed in convenience stores or in crowded areas, which may have poor security or allow thieves to look over your shoulder. Protect pin pads when using debit cards.
  • Create a password for your cell phone. Consider downloading a GPS locator to use in case your phone is lost or stolen.
  • Avoid putting your full name and address on luggage tags. Use only your last name and a phone number.
  • Tear up or shred boarding passes before you discard them. The personal information on them could be used by thieves to steal your identity.

If you are the victim of theft or you lose a wallet or cell phone while you’re traveling, make sure you know how to notify your bank, credit card companies or cell phone provider of the loss. Consider making a list of customer service phone numbers and/or account numbers that you keep separate from your wallet but not in checked luggage. If you’re traveling abroad, you may also want to bring a copy of your passport.

Wherever you go, you can check companies’ BBB Business Reviews by calling 314-645-3300 or visiting www.bbb.org.

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Top 10 Ways to Avoid Summer Travel Headaches

With summer just around the corner, many consumers are beginning to plan their vacation getaway. Although a vacation can provide a much-needed break from the everyday grind, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises travelers to plan ahead and check out businesses and other travel resources to avoid disappointment.

Travel and booking companies usually explain policies on cancellations and refunds. Some may require a minimum amount of notice for a cancellation, and some prorate refunds based on the length of time before the reservation date. Most travel websites ask users to indicate that they have read and understood the policies. Be sure that you look at the policies carefully before you check “agree” and make your reservation.

“Major travel sites can be a great way to find transportation, lodging and other resources for your vacation,” said BBB President/CEO.

BBB provides the following tips to help consumers make their vacation planning easier and avoid headaches and frustration:

  1. Check with BBB before booking your travel. BBB Business Reviews can give you information on companies’ complaint records, their time in business and how they respond to consumer complaints. For more information on business reviews, visit www.arizonabbb.org.
  1. Plan ahead. Many vacation destinations can book up quickly and the cost of reservations may go up the longer you wait to make them.
  1. Understand policies. Travel websites and individual providers like hotels, transportation companies or tours may have different policies when it comes to refunds or cancellations. Some may cancel your reservations if you arrive too late or fail to confirm your reservation ahead of time.
  1. Consider paying by credit card. Many credit card companies provide protection on items charged to the card, or they allow you to contest a charge if the provider fails to deliver promised services.
  1. Verify providers. When booking lodging through a third-party, check with the hotel directly to make sure it exists. Ask them to verify that the confirmation number you got from the third-party is valid. This precaution is especially important when booking through ads on classified sites or unfamiliar websites.
  1. Review statements. Make sure the amounts charged to your credit card match with the amounts shown on the travel site or your confirmation page. In most cases, there may be legitimate charges such as taxes or booking fees, but they should be disclosed before your credit card is charged.
  1. Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage, or a canceled or interrupted trip, among other things. However, in many cases, the limits on the insurance may not compensate you for the full amount of your loss, and there could be delays. Some credit cards may include insurance on purchases made with the card.
  1. Protect your personal information. Don’t give out your personal information to unknown callers who are offering a vacation deal over the phone and are requesting either your Social Security number or bank account information to proceed with a booking offer. Scammers may use this line to get your information and not really offer you a great vacation deal.
  1. Booking a reservation. When making reservations, never wire money or write a personal check.

10. Online Reservations. When booking your travel online, make sure you are visiting a reliable and well-known website. Also, be sure the website has a privacy policy statement indicating that your personal information will not be shared in any way or with any third party.