Just as there's no such thing as a free lunch in life, there's no such deal as a super-discount air ticket to India, free cruise to Alaska or effortless resale of your timeshare property.
Yet thousands of people in the U.S. including unwary Indians continue to be ensnared by conmen every year through the lure of impossibly low-priced air tickets, free cruises and other shady travel deals.
When a travel offer comes your way that sounds too good to be true, look for the red flags.
A frequent scam and one that many Indians often fall for is the super low-priced air ticket to India.
Quoting fares that are often several hundred dollars lower than brick and mortar stores or even online agents, Indian criminals in the U.S. masquerading as travel agents make off with thousands of dollars of customers' money.
Since a family of four visiting India will spend between $5,000-$7,500 on air tickets (depending on time of visit) alone during their annual trip to Mera Bharat Mahaan, the incentive for desis to look for "super-discounted" air fares is very high and understandable.
It's their desperation for super bargain fares that makes desis frequently fall victim to scamsters.
Indian discussion forums in the U.S. are rife with sob stories of being bilked by unscrupulous desi travel agents who never issued them a ticket or issued fake e-tickets that were declined at the airport check-in counter.
A few years back, an Indian travel agent in Bridgewater (NJ) swindled desis in several states of tens of thousands of dollars by delivering fake e-tickets or one-way tickets in place of round trip tickets.
Several Indians across the U.S. not only lost money but suffered considerable inconvenience as well when after arriving at the airport in India for the return trip, they discovered to their horror that their round-trip tickets were actually one-way tickets.
Here are a few steps you can follow to minimize the risk of being duped by unscrupulous travel agents:
* Check out the travel agent's web site and read the "About Us" section of the travel agent's web site and when the web site was registered.
* Ask if the travel agent is registered with the Better Business Bureau.
* If the quoted fare to Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad or any other Indian city is several hundred dollars lower than other agents, chances are the fares are not kosher.
* A good and reliable travel agent will always charge a small markup on the air fare for the services provided.
* Be wary of "Super Sale" offers that come unsolicited via Text messages or E-mail.
* Once you receive your tickets to India from the travel agent, confirm them with the airline several days before your date of departure.
By exercising caution over "Super Bargain Fares," tempering expectations for impossibly low fares, and following some simple steps outlined above, Indians in the U.S. can ensure their hard-earned money does not end up in the pockets of some conniving rascals.
* Iselin, New Jersey based Air-Savings has been serving customers across the U.S. for over a decade. Call Sonny Chatrath at 1-877-21-INDIA before booking your family's next trip to India.