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Consumer Tip No. 3: Paradise Comes at a Price (travel scams), by Kay Coyte

Note: In honor of Elizabeth “E.M.” Danniher’s beat as the “Helping Out” reporter from KWMT-TV in the Caught Dead in Wyoming series, I will be offering consumer tips drawn from the books. Here’s the third one in the series.

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In Chapter 7 of SIGN OFF,  TV reporter and consumer advocate Elizabeth Danniher gets her best result yet for an aggrieved Sherman, Wyoming, resident who fell for a travel scam offering a fabulous vacation to Acapulco. The woman sent a $200 check to a company in Dallas, but the deal didn’t materialize. Elizabeth contacted a Dallas reporter, who filmed the scam artist loading boxes from the bogus office, likely to skip town. The man claimed it was a misunderstanding and, in a good-faith gesture, wrote a check to reimburse his Wyoming client. Score one for Elizabeth’s “Helping Out” team.

The Better Business Bureau last month released a list of spring travel scams to avoid, mostly misleading travel offers that fail to deliver promises.  Some involve travel clubs that require upfront fees, others are fraudulent vacation packages that lure you onto a resort but load you with expensive add-ons or upgrades. Criminals also take advantage of sites such as Craigslist to post vacation rental ads for nonexistent properties using stolen photos that show a fancy room, sparkling pool or ocean view.

The lessons learned here fall into the “if it’s too good to be true” file. Or one of my father’s favorites: You get what you pay for. But don’t pay advance fees with cash, checks or wire transfers. Any legitimate company, such as a hotel that requires a deposit, will take a credit card. In addition to the fraud protection that credit cards provide, some cards also include little-known travel insurance, according to this 2014 USA Today column.