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Travel Tips

What you need to know:

Being an informed consumer will make you a wise traveler. This alert gives you information and tips to help you spot and stop common scams used to separate travelers from their money. You need to be mindful when planning and taking your trip.

Spot it: Signs of a travel scam

Whether you book your trip yourself online or through a travel agent, when planning your trip, do these three things:

  1. Research the agent or online booking site;
  2. Read all documents carefully; and
  3. Pay with a credit card.

Michigan law does not license travel agents, so the best way to research an agent or online booking site is to check with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed.

Word of mouth, personal recommendations, and online reviews are also ways to learn more about an agent or online service.

Travel documents and contracts are often long with lots of fine print. But it is important to read them completely and look for hidden costs or fees—especially when you are booking an all-inclusive vacation.

Advertised prices often don’t include fees, taxes, or service charges. Look for an asterisk (*) and then read the details. Take copies of your agreements with you in case you face unexpected fees or charges.

Credit cards offer fraud and cancellation protections not offered with other forms of payment.

When travelling, look out for these common travel scams:

  • Online booking scams.

When you’re looking to book directly with a hotel online, make sure you are on the hotel’s website. Consumers who have been scammed report that when they searched online and thought they were booking on a hotel website, they later found out they had been doing business with someone else.

  • Arriving and finding no reservation. Having trouble canceling or modifying a reservation or disputing charges through the hotel.
  • Finding reserved rooms did not reflect special requests like disability access or non-smoking.
  • Being charged undisclosed fees.
  • Paying a higher rate than what’s advertised by the hotel.
  • Getting credit card charges from the third party, not the hotel.
  • Getting your credit card charged when you book the room and not when you arrive at the hotel.
  • Not earning points with the hotel reward program.

It can be hard to tell whether you are on a hotel’s website. You might see a hotel’s name in the URL, or you might call the number next to the hotel’s address and not realize it’s the reservation company — and not the hotel — you’re talking to.

  • The “pizza flyer” scam.

Once you are checked in, a flyer to local eatery is placed under your door offering quick delivery. 

When you call in your order and give them your credit or debit card number (because that is all they accept), the food will never arrive, but a fraudulent charge will be placed on your card.

  • The “front desk call” scam.

This is a call to your room from someone claiming to be from the front desk. The caller apologizes for the interruption but needs your credit card number to ensure your stay because a computer glitch failed to verify your account when you checked in. 

Like the pizza flyer, the ruse is to get you to give the person on the call your credit card number.

  • The classic “bait and switch” scam.

The technique is nothing new, but scammers are endlessly creative in how they present it.

Travelers find out about the “bait-and-switch” when they are lured by outrageously low airfare, hotel rates, or car rental rates, and they wind up being pressured into spending far more money than anticipated.

One example reported to the Attorney General’s office involved a tourist entering a souvenir shop and placing an order for a personalized item at a low price.

When the tourist returned to pick up the souvenir, a more expensive item had been personalized, and the tourist was told that, if the more expensive item was not paid for, the shop owner would call the local police department and file charges.

Stop it: How to avoid being scammed

  • Look closely at online research results. Take the time to look for signs you might be on a third-party’s site, like another company’s logo. Read every document and look for fees and charges not included in the advertised price—especially with “all-inclusive” trips.
  • Find the hotel’s phone number yourself, rather than rely on what’s listed on a third-party’s website cancellation protections.
  • Don’t pay for travel with cash, checks, or pre-paid cards: use a credit card with fraud and cancellation protections.
  • Read every document and look for fees and charges not included in the advertised price— especially with “all-inclusive” trips.
  • Take copies of all travel documents with you to dispute any unexpected charges or fees.
  • Get all orders and agreements in writing.
  • Consider using a designated travel card just to pay for travel-related purchases, such as airline tickets, hotel reservations, rental cars, and other purchases.

For more travel tips and information:

For travel in Michigan, please visit Pure Michigan, Michigan’s Official Travel and Tourism website.

The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides tips to help travelers navigate airport security.

The U.S. State Department provides information on traveling safely abroad.

Report Fraud

If you have been the victim of a travel-related scam, or if you would like to file a general consumer complaint, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form