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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > April 2022 > Attorney General Yost Warns of Travel Scams

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Attorney General Yost Warns of Travel Scams

Leaving on a jet plane? Before packing your bags, consumers should beware of travel scams during peak travel months.

“Congratulations! You have won a FREE vacation!” Most offers like this are not truly free.
In Ohio, if a seller advertises that a consumer has won a free vacation or other prize, the advertisement must state important exclusions and limitations of the offer. For example, if a consumer is required to listen to a sales presentation about travel club memberships in order to receive a free cruise, that requirement must be disclosed in the ad.
Additionally, if a sale takes place outside a seller’s normal place of business, such as at a hotel meeting room, the consumer likely is entitled to a three-day grace period to cancel the sale under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act. Under this law, sellers must notify consumers of their cancellation rights.
Consumers might get free-vacation solicitations by way of letter, email, a traditional phone call, or robocall – a recent trend. Many of these “prizes” are actually traps in which you’ll have to pay hefty fees to claim the vacation or give your credit card number to verify your eligibility, potentially resulting in identity theft.
In addition to the not so free “free trips,” watch out for scams such as pre-paid vacation certificates and the bait and switch. 
Pre-paid vacation certificates can be sold by legitimate companies. When used in a scam, the seller will delay the use of the certificate by saying the dates you would like to travel are unavailable, until you just give up.
With the bait and switch scam, be suspicious of offers for hotel rooms or Airbnb’s that are unusually inexpensive for what is advertised. In many cases, the hotel or Airbnb is run-down, missing amenities, in a deserted part of town, and won’t refund your money.
“If you’ve got ocean front property in Fort Lauderdale for a week at $5 a night, run screaming the other way. It’s not real,” Attorney General Dave Yost said. “Somebody is trying to steal from you.”

To avoid problems with travel services, consumers should:
  • Research companies before doing business with them. Look for complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau. Search for lawsuits that the Ohio Attorney General has filed against individuals and businesses that violate the state’s consumer laws. Also, search online for reviews using the company’s name and words like “reviews” or “complaints.”
  • Be cautious of firms that ask you to pay before confirming reservations. Most reputable travel agents will confirm before payment.
  • Make sure verbal promises are put in writing. Otherwise, they’re not guaranteed.
  • Consider paying with a credit card. You generally have stronger protections to dispute credit card charges if something goes wrong. 
  • Be wary of vacation offers that are “good today only.”
  • Verify your reservations. If you book a trip through a third party, call the resort or hotel where you will be staying to confirm your reservation. 
Is a travel club membership worth it? A travel club, sometimes also called a vacation club, is a monthly or annual membership program that offers discounts on airline tickets, hotel rooms or rental cars. They have a lot of the same expenses and destinations, but in a travel club, members vacation together. The company gets them group rates, so they usually pay less for memberships and fees than vacation club members.
Questions to ask before signing up for a travel club membership include:
  • Will you have to take several trips per year to get any savings? 
  • Do trips book up quickly, limiting your ability to schedule a vacation? 
  • Can you find similar or better deals yourself online?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • Are deposits refundable? 
  • Are there any non-refundable fees?
  • Will you get a refund if a trip is canceled because of a natural disaster or bad weather? 
  • Will you have to pay an extra fee if you change your reservations or reschedule a trip? 
  • What’s the total cost of the membership? 
  • Will additional fees kick in later, after you sign the agreement? 
Consumers who suspect a scam or who have problems they can’t resolve on their own should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515. The office provides a free informal dispute resolution process to help resolve complaints. It also takes enforcement actions against travel services that violate Ohio’s consumer protection laws.