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Booking your family vacation online

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We've all seen those ads, an amazing vacation in paradise but only for pennies.  That's what many of the internet ads say you can do.  But, is this for real?  There are some fabulous deals out there but WBTV's Cyber Expert Theresa Payton tells us how to get a steal of a deal while staying safe.

FIVE QUICK TIPS ON HOW TO SPOT THE SCAM SLAM:

Free trip travel prizes

Unsolicited email offers from a website or travel club that you do not belong to

Hesitant to give all fees up front

Travel services that use area codes such as 900, 809, 758, or 664.  Note:  these area codes are usually toll calls with higher per minute fees.

IN 15 MINUTES OR LESS - HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Research the offer and the company: 

  • ask friends if they have heard of the deal or used the company
  • check in with the Better Business Bureau
  • type in the company name plus "scam" into your favorite search engine to see what comments pop up

Ask for the refund policy and fees all up front and in writing – if they hesitate, do not do business with them

Pay with a credit card for extra consumer protections

WARNING!  POTENTIAL UPCOMING SCAMS:

Spring Break and Summer Vacations

Year End Holiday Deals

Olympics 2012

THREE TIPS FOR VICTIMS:

Report the scam to your local Better Business Bureau  http://charlotte.bbb.org/ or go to the National site at http://www.bbb.org/ to choose your location.

Contact your State Attorney General's Office:

North Carolina: http://www.ncdoj.gov/

South Carolina:  http://www.scattorneygeneral.org/

You can also email the American Society of Travel Agents' (ASTA) Consumer Affairs Department at consumeraffairs@asta.org

PLACES TO CHECK FOR DEALS:

Assisted – There are many reputable firms that can assist you and help you save:

Your local travel agent

AAA and American Express travel service

If you have credit card, airline, or hotel rewards programs, check their sites for travel packages

Do It Yourself – There are many sites to choose from, we have listed a few:

Travelocity.com

Expedia.com

Orbitz.com

WORD FOR THE WEEK:  Punked

It's moved from Ashton Kutcher's meaning which was to play a prank on celebrities and catch it on tape to someone playing a prank on a celebrity's or your social media account.  It comes from the recent incident where hackers got into Ashton Kutcher's Twitter account and left the message "Ashton, you've been PUNK'D.  This account is not secure.  Dude, where's my SSL?"

OTHER WEB SITES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL:

The American Society of Travel Agents has a helpful site called Travel Sense:  http://www.travelsense.org/tips/index.cfm  

National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch at:  http://www.fraud.org/tips/internet/travelfraud.htm

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