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Ticket Scam Resource Center - Travel Scams

This site is primarily related to event tickets, but some travel scams are worth mentioning.
While airline bumping may seem like a scam (you buy a ticket but there's no seat), bumping is legal. In defense of the airlines, a large, fully booked plane is bound to have a couple of no-shows. Customers complain about reduced services such as meals and legroom, but when it comes time to choose a flight, we base our choice almost exclusively on price. We dress sloppy, yak on our cell phones, squeeze our growing bodies into the seats, and then blame the lousy experience on the airlines. While certain practices are not regulated, airlines are heavily regulated in the areas of maintenance, security, flight paths and more. The industry is losing billions of dollars a year. For the time being, the airlines are allowed to overbook, as long as bumped passengers are compensated.
Voluntary airline bumping occurs as a negotiated agreement between you and an airline, when the airline oversells a flight and asks for volunteers to give up seats. The airline generally offers another flight to the original destination plus additional flights or a voucher or some other compensation. The compensation is not regulated, and is negotiable. But if you ask for too much, the airline might refuse your request and accept other volunteers.
During negotiations, you'll want to know any limitations on destinations (domestic or international), blackout dates, expiration dates, and the process for making reservations using a voucher.
If volunteers do not reduce the passenger load enough, or at the discretion of the airline, the airline will involuntarily bump some passengers. In this case, compensation is regulated by the US Department of Transportation. Non-US visitors to this web site should review their own government's information.
Airlines don't really want to irritate customers any more than they already are irritated (by flight delays and cramped quarters). It's better for the airline to give a little more compensation to a volunteer than to force regulated compensation on unhappy customers.
Travel package scams are usually not oriented around the tickets themselves. You don't get a ticket for a vacation; you get a ticket for a flight, and a ticket for a shuttle to your hotel, and a ticket to a show, etc. You also get promises of an environment, such as an exciting city or a beautiful park. With cut rate excursions, you don't get much choice in seating locations or travel dates, and when a scam occurs, it's usually more insidious than getting a window seat instead of an aisle seat.
The best way to avoid a travel scam is to determine your own travel desires first, and then find providers, rather than the other way around. When you are approached by mail or email with an offer that's too good to pass up, you place yourself at the mercy of the provider. It's not a trip you want to take; it's a trip that someone else wants you to pay for. You don't find these scams in glossy magazines because the ads cost too much. You get scam offers by email because email is cheap.
If you can get all the trip details, such as travel dates, airline names, hotel names, sightseeing details, and especially the bottom line cost, you can double-check the offer. You can ensure that the flights are scheduled, you can visit the hotel on the web, you can ensure that special events match your expectations, etc. If you're happy with those arrangements, that's great. Get your credit card out and have a ball.
With many scams, however, the provider wants money before all the details are divulged. As the details trickle in, you realize that the arrangements are impossible or sub-standard, or you're required to pay additional fees, or the scammer has disappeared entirely, and your deposit is non-refundable. If you can't get details to double-check, then you should suspect a scam.
The scam, ultimately, is to take your non-refundable deposit and then make it so difficult to travel that you can't actually go.
The old saying, "You get what you pay for," is not always true. You get what you pay for when you deal with trusted providers. Unsolicited offers should not be trusted. When you refuse to pay retail, and focus only on price, you open yourself up to scams.