travel scamsSpring is finally here, meaning a lot of people are yearning for a quick getaway, and students are planning spring break or graduation trips.

So it's wise to remember travel scams cost consumers $12 billion annually, according to the National Association of Attorneys General, and the Better Business Bureau fields thousands of complaints about the travel industry every year.

"It is important for travelers, especially high school and college students, to not get caught up in the allure of deep discounts for eye-catching resorts without doing their homework," Dale Mingilton, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Denver/Boulder, said in a statement. "Take the time to ensure you're booking through a reputable company and you understand all the terms."The BBB recommends paying for vacation costs by credit card so you're protected if something goes wrong. You also may want to purchase travel insurance to cover other potential problems with your vacation.

When booking trips, the BBB suggests travelers avoid these "red flags":
  • Heavily discounted offers -- If the offer is much lower than the regular price of travel and sounds "too good to be true," it probably is. Be sure to shop around.

  • Policy changes -- Avoid companies that force you to pay by cash, check or wire transfer. If you don't pay with a credit card, you lose your best avenue for getting a refund if the company doesn't carry out its obligations.

  • "One call, one chance" -- On the first phone call, some high-pressure sales companies place a deadline on their offer to try and get you to commit on the spot.

  • Hidden costs – Find out if a "bargain" travel package includes all costs, such as ground transportation, lodging, meals, port fees, taxes, peak-season price increases and gratuities.

  • False bookings -- Before traveling, confirm all arrangements yourself with the airline, cruise line and hotel. Even though you've paid for the trip, it's possible your reservations don't exist.
As with any large consumer purchase, be sure to do your homework. If you're planning your trip through a travel agency or travel club, look up the company before signing any contracts. You can check with your state attorney and local BBB.

If you plan to go overseas, see the BBB's "Safety Tips for Traveling Abroad" and "Beware of Low Tech Travel Scams."

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