The Bottom Line : Travel Scams
Updated: Thursday, December 12 2013, 07:38 PM EST
LATHAM -- The snow's been falling, and the temperatures are dropping.
It's the time of year when many in the Capital Region look to escape the cold by booking a warm-weather vacation.
You can score a pretty good travel package deal right now - but make sure it's not "too" good, because that deal may not be real at all!
Imagine finding a travel package to Florida for $300 - or to the Bahamas for $500.
For some what sounded too good to be true - was.
"There were many instances where victims found out just one or two days before that there were no travel packages and they were deeply disappointed," says U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Haraway.
That supposed company, which is now shut down, sold thousands of bogus travel packages costing consumers $12 million.
In another case, a New Jersey couple admitted in August they stole $2.6 million from customers through their "Dreamworks Vacation Club."
And even in the Capital Region, travel agent Jean Gagnon with Plaza Travel tells CBS 6's Dori Marlin, there are more victims than you'd think.
"Do you hear from alot of people who run into issues because they bought into something like this?" Dori asked.
"Yes, yes," Gagnon says. "They'll call us up and say 'I have this package, now I can't find out what hotel it is' - and we're like, something's wrong."
What's wrong, she says, is not knowing the right signs to look for. Once you've decided which travel company you're looking to book with, start asking questions.
"Do they have brick and mortar? Do they have an actual physical location? Can you call them?" Gagnon says if you can't, it's a hint that something is wrong.
As for legitimate companies where you can find a good deal, for real?
"Most airlines do offer packages, not only on their flights, but also including car and hotel," Gagnon says. "Like Southwest, American, U.S. Airways - those are very safe bets."
Other companies - like Collette Vacations, Caravan Tours, and nationally-known brands where you can get a physical brochure - should also be smooth sailing.
And there are organizations which legitimate travel companies belong to - like the International Air Transit Association, the Airline Reporting Corporation, the U.S. Tour Operators Association - so it's also a good idea to ask if a company is a member of those, as well.