By Josh Stein
I hope many of you are looking forward to some relaxing travel this summer. But whether you’re planning on enjoying the heat or evading it, nothing will ruin your vacation faster than a travel or rental scam.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re vacationing this summer.
Travel scams can often be disguised as too-good-to-be-true offers – and when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. Scammers may call to offer you a free vacation or tell you that you’ve won a trip in a contest you don’t remember entering. Be suspicious if you’re asked to share personal information or financial data at the outset, and do some research on the company. You can look up the business and owners online to see if they seem legitimate. Check if they have complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. And please call my office to check them out at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
If you’re planning a trip on your own or with the help of a travel agency, be diligent about the details. Be sure to have any promises from the agency or other vendors in writing, and read all contracts before signing. Always pay with a credit card instead of cash so you can dispute a transaction or get a refund if the company goes out of business. When third parties are involved in your trip, like a hotel that your travel agency has arranged through a coupon or voucher, contact the third party directly to make sure your reservation will be honored.
You may be considering joining a vacation club or buying a timeshare to make vacations smoother. Beware of vacation clubs that offer excessively high upfront membership costs – shop around before you commit to one so you can get a better idea of the price you should be paying. Research the company to find out if the membership is easy to use, where the travel club places its members, reviews from other members and whether the membership will actually save you money.
And if you are planning to rent a residential property in North Carolina for fewer than 90 days rather than staying in a hotel, you are protected by North Carolina’s Vacation Rental Act. The law requires your landlord to specify your rights and obligations as a tenant, along with their obligations as a landlord, and to include details about the price of rent and the security deposit. Landlords are required by law to keep the property safe and habitable after the rental agreement is made. Remember, we’re already in hurricane season, and you may have to cut a trip short if weather becomes unpredictable. If you are forced to leave a rental property because of a mandatory evacuation order and the landlord failed to offer you travel insurance, you may be due compensation for the lost time. Find more information at www.ncdoj.gov/disastersandvacation.
Summer travel is an opportunity to relax, recharge and reconnect with loved ones before life gets busy again in the fall. If you have a complaint about your travel experience or think you may have been the victim of a travel scam, file a consumer complaint with our office’s Consumer Protection Division at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Josh Stein serves as North Carolina attorney general.