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Consumer Crackdown: As Spring Break travel heats up, experts warn of bogus deals and travel needs

Certain international destinations now require medical travel insurance
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 2:23 PM EST
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InvestigateTV - Spring Break is in full swing and with COVID-19 cases trending downwards across the U.S. and the world, many are preparing for their first vacation since 2020.

However, as you plan for that perfect getaway, experts warn travelers need to watch out for con-artists offering deals too good to be true.

“It’s an opportunity to really go after people who are beginning to plan their vacation in a way that they really haven’t in the last couple of years,” Ira Rheingold, Executive Director, National Association of Consumer Advocates said.

Rheingold said you may see deals for a rental property or a flight pop up through robocalls or emails.

“Be very wary and double-check and triple-check and really only depend upon legitimate sites,” Rheingold said.

The Federal Trade Commission warns scammers will pressure you to book a trip right away and turn over your personal information. The FTC also said requests for payments with wire transfers, gifts cards or cryptocurrency can be red flags for travel bookings.

If your plans include traveling abroad, you may need to pack more than your vaccination card or a negative COVID test. Popular destinations, including The Bahamas and St. Maarten, are requiring medical travel insurance to cover COVID-19 related costs.

“More and more countries have had a lot of burden from this COVID-19 pandemic from their medical systems and they no longer want to make it, they no longer want to invite additional burden to their medical systems,” Omar Kaywan, of Goose Insurance, said.

Kaywan, who is based in Canada, follows travel trends in the U.S. and overseas.

Pre-COVID there were about 100 million international trips taken by US residents,” Kaywan said. “Less than four percent of them had any type of medical travel insurance which is a bit shocking because of the number of people who have unstable pre-existing medical conditions.”

Kaywan said the number of people buying medical travel insurance has increased by 30% since travel picked up following the Omicron surge.

The FTC points out that consumers can avoid travel scams by getting a copy of the cancellation and refund policies before you pay. They urge consumers to research travel companies, hotels, rentals, and agents by searching the words, “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” Travelers should also check reviews and the address of the property.

To report a travel scam, contact your State Attorney General or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or reportfraud.ftc.gov.