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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scammers focus on cheap holiday accommodation offers


As plans are made for holidays, scammers are out there designing their next move to appropriate hard earned dollars.

"This time each year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission receives complaints from holiday makers who find that the cheap accommodation vouchers they have paid for either don't arrive, are fakes, or simply can't be used as promised," ACCC deputy chair, Peter Kell, said.

"Often the vouchers have been bought by credit card during an enticing but unsolicited call from a telemarketer or after receiving a fax offering accommodation at heavily discounted prices. These can include holidays at Phuket, Koh Samui or Bali or Australian locations.

"If the vouchers do arrive, consumers find that when they go to book their holidays, additional charges need to be paid in order to secure accommodation or the accommodation provider has no knowledge of the voucher or deal.

"In one example reported to the ACCC, a woman arrived at a motel having bought vouchers which she believed entitled her to discounted accommodation. The motel had never heard of the voucher provider.

"In another instance, a consumer was sold vouchers for accommodation but found they could be used only to buy food.

"The ACCC has also had instances of consumers having multiple, unauthorised debits from their credit card account.

"These scammers know how to push the right buttons," Mr Kell warned. "Holidays are considered a luxury item and consumers are looking for the best way to stretch their holiday dollar. Scammers are taking advantage of this.

"Be cautious of any unsolicited offer and avoid providing your credit card details over the phone. Obtaining refunds from unscrupulous traders is next to impossible."

Consumers can protect themselves when pre purchasing accommodation by:

* contacting the accommodation provider and confirming the availability of the accommodation;
* not providing credit card details and other personal information to unsolicited callers. Get details and say you will call them back after you have checked their offer. If they are genuine they will be happy to provide their contact details. If they don't, hang up!

Further information about current scams can be found on the ACCC's scamwatch website at www.scamwatch.gov.au
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