School trips can be life-changing experiences for students when planned by reputable travel agencies, but unscrupulous scammers have been using these trips to steal thousands of dollars from teachers, children, and their parents. Event organizers and parents alike must be on alert for shady travel deals.
How the Scam Works
A travel agency approaches your school or is referred by a well-intentioned (but misled) individual. At first, everything seems normal. The agency looks legitimate, with a professional staff and a website. The trip prices seem reasonable, and the agency encourages students to host fundraisers to pay for their trips.
However, as the trip gets closer, everything changes. Your school or parents may be asked to front money the travel agency was supposed to pay for plane tickets, hotels, and excursions. Scammers often promise the money will be returned at a later date, and they push you to pay immediately. In one scam report on BBB Scam Tracker, the con artist told parents: “If you don’t front the money, the kids won’t be able to take this trip they’ve been planning for months!”
In the end, scammers get away with the money fronted for the trip. No one is the wiser until students show up, bags packed, only to find out their flights or hotel reservations never actually existed. When you try to get in touch with the travel agency, they don’t respond or have disappeared.
Protect Yourself from Travel Scams
- Look out for red flags. If you are contacted by a travel agency unsolicited, be wary. Trips that seem too good to be true or are “free” are probably scams.
- Do your research. When considering hiring a company, investigate them thoroughly before giving them any money or sensitive information. Check out bbb.org, travel sites, and online parent forums. In addition, research your trip destination and activities. The more you know the less likely you are to fall victim to a scam.
- Pay attention to detail. When making a purchase or signing a contract, be sure to get everything in writing and read all the fine print. Ask about additional fees and make sure you have all the details in writing. Verify your reservations by calling the hotel or airline directly. Print out all reservation confirmations and keep them with you as your group travels.
- Pay with a credit card. When making a payment, always use your credit card, which offers more protection by allowing you to dispute fraudulent charges if necessary. Be especially wary if the travel agent asks you to pay by wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or other unusual forms of payment.
For More Information
If you’ve been the victim of a travel scam, report your experience on BBB.org/ScamTracker help others stay informed and alert.