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But if you're a traveler trying to stay out of trouble, it's your good s that need protecting your credit card s, your phone company calling card s, your bank machine personal ID s. They're what can give scamming strangers access to your money.
And there are plenty of those scamming strangers out there. When California officials gathered in Sacramento recently to talk about consumer complaints, identity theft topped the list, and authorities agreed that travelers were among the most common victims. In fact, on a new list of 10 leading consumer complaints compiled by the California Assembly's Committee on Consumer Protection, Governmental Efficiency and Economic Development, four of the complaints stemmed from dubious practices within the travel industry.
The National Consumers League, which tallies fraud complaints by consumers to law enforcement agencies, last year estimated that one in seven complaints concerned travel.
And when the league revised its estimates forthe rate rose to one in five. But lately the field has diversified, and many state officials say identity crimes literally, stealing people's credit identities in order to empty their s have sur- Eassed simpler sales scams as the :ading form of consumer fraud. Authorities tell of how bad guys linger near the phone banks in airports and hotels, visually or aurally picking off phone card authorization codes that allow them to run up someone else's phone bill. In an East Coast scam, con artists pose as bank employees in front of "broken" ATM machines, handing out cash to cover small withdrawals and asking customers to disclose their PIN s, i But the most rapidly increasing identity theft, authorities say, is probably Internet fraud individuals who, posing as travel professionals, persuade consumers to type in their credit card s to book a service or hold a ticket.
Then they vanish from cyberspace, armed with the credit card. As that increases, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents said, he expects fraud cases to soar. He said the Internet is "the Beautiful mature wants seduction Pittsburgh Pennsylvania West. People need to be very, very careful. In the end, the "free trip" may cost more, and deliver less, than a standard package vacation would have. Deceptive advertising: Usually, this means that announce a low-priced flight or lodging or tour, but omit important conditions that must be met in order for a traveler to get that price.
Sometimes small companies place thesewhich include a price and a phone but not the company's name an immediate warning that a consumer should be on guard. But many argue that major U. This may seem dishonest, but there's no federal law against it.
Travel failures and scams: In an industry as crowded and competitive as travel, honest companies sometimes fail. But the greater threats to most consumers are posed by the phantom companies that offer implausibly low prices, collect client money, then vanish. Consumers can avoid these operators by using firms with established track records one attribute to look for is membership in the U. Tour Operators Associationand also by paying when possible with a credit card, so that the consumer's money can be protected if the service never materializes.
If you have questions, call the National Fraud Information Center, sponsored by the National Consumers League, at between 9 a. Frequent flier mileage may fly away From wire reports A rude awakening could be in store for thousands of frequent-flier club members who got certificates a year or so ago entitling them to a free domestic round-trip ticket in exchange for 20, miles.
Many traded in mileage for certificates because the airlines were about to raise the threshold for a free trip to 25, miles. Most big U. But for fliers who haven't taken their free flights yet, many of those one-year certificates will expire between now and February, and club members who try to book a quick trip with them may well find that there's a "sorry, full" on flights on the busiest routes. Each flight has only a limited of seats allotted for award travel.
Brock said passengers should be flexible in trying to use their certificates fly midweek and consider cities other than the hottest travel destinations. Certificate-holders who can't get a flight that suits them have some options, but they must act before the certificate expiration date or see their 20, miles vanish. Some airlines will let you book a ticket good up to a year m advance with the certificate, effectively extending the certificate's value and also increasing the chance that you can book your preferred time and destination.
Allow time for security Stricter airport security requires extra planning and patience on the part of travelers, notes the American Automobile Association. Be prepared to answer questions about your baggage and make sure your name is on each piece both outside and inside. Keep luggage to the minimum and be aware that a computer and other electronic devices may require extra time to clear security. Note that there may be special airport parking and unloading restrictions so leave plenty of time arrive at least one hour ahead for domestic flights, two hours for international flights.
Never leave luggage unattended or under the watch of a stranger and don't accept any item from a stranger or carry any package with unknown contents. Now, with all ships and passengers ed for, Federal Maritime Commission officials say that the cruise line carried a required guarantee to indemnify passengers and that passenger claims against the line should be settled relatively smoothly.
The company unexpectedly announced Oct. Passengers on the Regent Spirit, on a European cruise, reportedly found notes under their doors informing them the trip would be cut short. Meanwhile the Regent Sea, off South America, also headed back to port. Freehill Hogan is the agent for the company underwriting the guarantee, Newcastle Protection and Indemnity Association of Newcastle, England. Chunnel impact It has been almost a year since the Channel Tunnel opened, and rail traffic between London and Paris apparently is cutting into air traffic between the two cities.
Europe, the company that books passenger service through the Chunnel, said that from February to September air-passenger totals were down 12 percent to 15 percent, while Chunnel trains were holding at 60 percent capacity even as the daily of trains rose from five to nine.
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