Q: I'm getting ready to buy airfare and trip insurance for my husband's and my summer trip to New England. I'm not so sure how to avoid rip-offs for the insurance and would appreciate any advice. -- Teri Traveler
A: Dear Mrs. Traveler: Seems like each time we become fairly certain how to avoid scams, new ones come along. So you're wise to check out the dangers before handing over your credit card information.
The American Society of Travel Agents warns consumers about joining a vacation club -- one that mandates advance payment to guarantee huge discounts for future travel. Obviously, neither the discounts nor the travel materializes and you're out a significant sum of money. Plus the scammers hold your credit card information. (I wrote a column in 2008 about timeshare vacation clubs of which most are legit; however, it makes sense to thoroughly check out any company that promises such huge rewards before paying and signing on the dotted line.)
Along this line, always hang up fast if someone calls with "You've been selected ... Congratulations on winning a fabulous vacation. You've won a sweepstakes ...bla bla bla," not giving you a clue what's going on. Often, the telephone's ring is the prerequisite to parting you and your money.
If paying for a trip by credit card, most of us become automatically insured for loss of life, limb(s), and so forth. If you desire flight interruption (to include lost luggage) or medical evacuation insurance, be certain to buy a plan underwritten by a licensed company from one of the larger travel insurance agencies. Never purchase directly from travel agents, even if these people are as honest as the day is long.
In fact, check your existing medical insurance policy and carefully read the fine print. While most cover emergency care abroad, they usually don't cover medical evacuation, which could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending upon where you traveled and where you need to go for treatment. Go online to the following: www.ustia.org and www.travel.state.gov/travel/tips/brochures/brochures_1215.html. Enjoy your vacation!
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.