It is no secret that retirees often love to take cruises, but older folks are one of the most vulnerable to travel scams. Scammers know that older folks with disposable income can be easy to fool with seemingly-real fare discounts or group travel plans.
Anyone can become a victim of a cruise scam because …who wouldn’t want to save money on a vacation to sail the seven seas?
Advertisements lure potential cruise passengers with promises of juicy cruise package discounts, group travel and too-good-to-be-true offers. Sometimes the deals are real, but deceptive. You get a cruise, but hidden charges buried in fine print slam your credit card statement after you’ve disembarked.
Not all cruise packages are illegitimate. There are deals to be had and using a trusted travel agent or contacting a cruise line directly are usually your best bets. If you’re using a new travel agent or are delving into details about an advertised package, there are ways to make sure you aren’t getting scammed.
Your first indicator that something is not right is your own good common sense. If a phone conversation, an email exchange or an in-person visit causes the hair on the back of your neck to stand straight up, then your intuition is working overtime.
Any time a stranger asks for personal or financial information or asks for a pre-payment without backing it up with a lock-tight confirmation, you could be in scam trouble. Consider all the cruise-line deals you want, but do not offer to hand over sensitive information without double checking if the deal is real.
Just making a phone call using an 800 number to check out a deal may end up costing you money. Some scammers will be glad to charge you for the call, take an up-front fee and then disappear. Some just want to keep you on the phone long enough to steal your identity.
Err on the side of caution.
It takes very little time to pick up a phone and verify whether an offered cruise-line deal is authentic. Make no commitments until you call the cruise line directly. Contact the Better Business Bureau.
Research the company offering you the great cruise package. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or challenge promises that sound over-the-top. Do not use cash or write a check. Credit card transactions are traceable and reversible. Once a thief has your check or a fat wad of cash, you can kiss it good-bye.
You can prevent becoming a victim by listening to that little voice inside your head that will warn you something is just not right. Keep your wallet closed until you know that the cruise deal you get is exactly what you want…in writing.