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Hotels, AARP Try to Combat Travel Scams Aimed at Seniors

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There are way too many stories out there of people purchasing travel packages that don’t exist or booking hotel rooms, paying upfront and then finding out there is no place at the inn when they arrive.

They are victims of a scam, and it’s especially prevalent among senior citizens who are pegged as the victim.

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Now the hotel industry and AARP are doing something about it.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and AARP this week announced a coordinated campaign aimed at educating senior travelers to avoid travel scams.

This collaboration aligns with both AHLA’s Search Smarter campaign and the AARP Fraud Watch Network, initiatives designed to help consumers avoid falling victim to scams and fraud.

“We’re thrilled to be working with AARP,” Chip Rogers, President and CEO of AHLA, said in a statement. “False and misleading websites all too often deceive consumers as they plan their travel. Together with AARP, our efforts will empower the 50+ to search smarter and avoid travel scams.”

According to AHLA research, 23 percent of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online, which amounted to $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions in 2018 alone.

“Through the AARP Fraud Watch Network, we work to educate consumers about the scams and fraud that claim billions of dollars each year,” said Kathy Stokes, Director of Fraud Prevention Programs for AARP. “We are excited to join AHLA in our shared mission to protect consumers from fraud and look forward to an ongoing collaboration.”

Both AHLA’s Search Smarter campaign and the AARP Fraud Watch Network offer consumers tips to protect them from bad actor websites. These tips include the following:

Book on the official website of a hotel or use a reputable third-party resource.

Carefully check a travel website’s URL. Scam sites may use “domain spoofing” tricks such as an extra letter in the address.

Call the hotel to confirm your reservation after booking on a third-party website. If they don’t have a record of your booking, that may signal a problem.

Be leery of pressure tactics (e.g., “Only 2 rooms left. Book now!”). Third-party sites do not have access to a hotel’s inventory.

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U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19

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The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

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The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

For more information, visit travel.state.gov.

This post was published by our news partner: TravelPulse.com | Article Source

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