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Watch your wallet

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” When Thomas Paine uttered these infamous words back on December 23, 1776, he had no idea what lay in store in the future. Yes, we are in trying times and while there are some positive signs for our immediate future, we still need to be very cautious about our businesses. We are in a recession because the government told us so; and with every recession there will be an abundance of scams, schemes and failures which will separate you from your money. Take a look at a few of which you may not (or may) be aware.

Cruise Freeks.

Apparently, a forum was created to compete with Cruise Critic and in an attempt to draw traffic, the owner promised nearly $1 million dollars worth of free cruises. The owner fed clients to trusted travel agents who actually handled the bookings. However, when the time came to produce the prizes, they never materialized. In some cases, agents had arranged non refundable air transportation, have lost deposits, and may have contracted with a celebrity guest for the cruise. This scheme is still developing and more details can be found in a document outlining the whole fiasco. And in an ironic twist, YTB and/or Vacation Central are also involved.

Bogus Job Opportunities.

Face it, there are people who will be laid off. It is unfortunate for sure, but to someone unfamiliar with the industry, an unwitting job seeker could be scammed. First of all, it is not a job—it is an invitation to join a MLM. They proclaim that they offer a “license” to be a travel agent. They state earnings of $60,000+. And to top it off, this particular company offers the false claim of affiliations with ASTA, ARC, and IATAN. This particular company has been terminated by IATAN for misusing their certification, and they are not members of ASTA.

Banking Schemes.

While not a true scam, it appears that many larger banks are taking a hard stand on implementing fees. The unfortunate part is that by accepting their terms (which are scary) you agree to whatever they want to do. Bank of America recently targeted a small personal account and assessed $210 in fees for what should have only been a single overdraft fee. Are they targeting low balance accounts to maximize this practice? Who knows, but it makes sense to keep your eyes on your bank book.

Vendor or Host Shakiness.

As has been said in this column before, keep aware of any monies you are owed by a vendor or a host. Recently a vendor became very late on commission obligations and answered the demands by assuring that there was a new bunch of capital being infused. That should be a major red flag. Most businesses on solid financial footing should be able to perpetuate without an infusion of capital to pay commissions. As you may have guessed, this same vendor has used this excuse for several months and still the commissions are missing. This tactic may also be used in a host agency relationship. Of particular concern are the ones that offer a 100% commission split. Honestly, how can one expect to make money when you are giving away 100% of your income? Think about it.

There are hundreds of schemes in the marketplace today. Our local police department just issued a press release about bogus home improvement contractors. Unfortunately in times like these, the con artists and schemers will come out of the woodwork. As an industry, travel is least able to withstand a financial hit. Be cautious. Check everything out. Twice. And remember, if it seems too good to be true—go with your gut!

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