Cruise Scams - It seems as if every time you turn around, people are trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Planning a cruise is no exception. The cruise industry could not survive without its older adult market, but con artists target this population. The AARP offers advice on what seniors should know before booking a cruise.
Here are some of the most common cruise scams that try to take your travel dollars:
- You get a promise of a free cruise, in exchange for listening to several hours of high-pressure timeshare presentations or resort tours. Afterward, you might discover the fine print contained terms that added hundreds of dollars or more in fees to the so-called free cruise. You will probably get your arm twisted to buy expensive upgrades. If you stick to your guns and refuse the upgrades, you will likely get the worst cabin on the ship, without things you would take for granted, like air conditioning.
- An offer “too good to be true” most likely is just that. For example, a legitimate cruise company or travel agency might offer supposed deals, like “buy one, get one free,” “80 percent off,” or “a friend travels free.” If you check the regular prices, however, you might discover the full fare is typically far less than in this offer. If a cruise usually costs $4,000, you are not getting a deal when you buy one and get one free, and the full fare gets jacked up to $8,000.
- You get a phone call or email that says you won a free cruise or sweepstakes. The caller might merely be trying to steal your personal information to sell to identity thieves on the deep web. Another likely possibility is that, after you pay all the hidden costs, port fees, document fees, taxes and other inflated expenses, you could end up spending as much as if you had booked the trip with a reputable travel agency or directly with the cruise company.
These are but a few examples of cruise scams. Always be cautious about booking travel. Make sure you read the fine print.
Watch for These Red Flags
You should probably hang up the phone or delete an email if it:
- Asks you to complete a short survey to get entered into a drawing for a free cruise.
- Says you will have to attend any kind of presentation or meeting to get the cruise.
- Claims you won a contest, but you do not remember entering one.
You can avoid getting scammed about a cruise, by following this advice:
- Contact the cruise company directly to make sure the travel agency does business with the cruise company regularly and is reputable.
- Insist on getting the paperwork before you pay, so you can read all the fine print.
- Run an online search of the travel agency to see if people have complained about them or posted negative reviews.
- Do not book with someone who requires payment by a wire transfer or peer-to-peer (P2P) payment through a mobile payment app, like Venmo or Zelle.
- Pay with a credit card, so you might get at least some of your money back in the event of a scam or dispute.
- Read everything carefully and do the math to avoid surprises about costs.
Every state has different regulations, so be sure to talk to an elder law attorney near you about how your state might vary from the general law of this article.
AARP. “Cruise Scams.” (accessed December 5, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/cruise.html