Sometimes the most expensive part of planning a vacation is booking your airline ticket. And I can imagine nothing worse then preparing for your trip, only to realize that your ticket isn’t real.
Here are three common airline scams, and how to avoid them.
Scam: Free Tickets
As the saying goes, “Nothing in life is free,” so if you get an offer in the mail for a free airline ticket, be skeptical.
The Better Business Bureau warns of a scam where letters are mailed to unsuspecting customers disguised as free tickets or vouchers from American Airlines or US Airways. These letters usually have no return address and ask you to call a toll-free number to claim your prize. On the phone, you’ll be asked to pay a small processing fee with your credit card, and just like that, your identity is stolen.
Or travelers are lured to attend high-pressure sales pitches for expensive travel club memberships.
If you’re looking for deals, flash sales are really the only way to get a cheap plane ticket. Follow travel sites, like Airfare Watchdog on Twitter, that share flash sales as soon as they happen. This is a safe and stress-free way to increase your chances of snagging a good deal.
Scam: Sweepstakes Offers on Facebook
I’m going to put this really bluntly: You are never going to get free airline tickets by sharing or liking something on Facebook.
If you see an airline offering free tickets, it’s likely a copycat page that’s just trying to get likes in a practice called “like farming.” Essentially they rack up as many likes as they can in a short amount of time before they replace the page with a scam, or even worse, malware.
Instead of following the scammers, be sure to follow your favorite airline on their VERIFIED social media accounts. Verified means that they will have a blue check mark next to their name.
This distinction will ensure that if you see a deal, it’s real.
Scam: False Booking
There have been a lot of stories lately about travel agents scamming travelers. Horrible stories where people hand over thousands of dollars and are promised a trip that they never get to take. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you’re not confident booking your own travel, a travel agent can be a great source to get you good deals and help you solve problems. But don’t get scammed by just choosing an agent who promises you the cheapest tickets.
Instead, interview your agent ahead of time. Ask about the fees up front and ask if they are certified with the American Society of Travel Agents or the Travel Institute. Also, if they are affiliated with a group like AAA, that’s a bonus.
This article was originally published by Yahoo! Travel under the headline Airline Scams That People Actually Fall For: How to Avoid Them. It is reprinted here with permission.