Here is a list of organizations that can be helpful if you are researching a travel deal you suspect of being a scam or if you have already been victimized. They can also help mediate billing disputes when other options have been exhausted.
Many people rely on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for guidance. What they don't realize is that the BBB does not actively investigate fraud. For the most part, they rely on reports from consumers. You have no way to know if a complaint comes from a disgruntled person or if the person was actually cheated. If you choose to call the BBB, check your phone directory for the local listing.
The Department of Transportation monitors fraudulent advertising regarding air travel. Write to The Office of Consumer Affairs (I-25), 400 7th St. SW, Washington, DC 20590; call 202-366-2220; go on-line at www.dot.gov.
The Aviation Consumer Action Project was founded by Ralph Nader and concerns itself with all consumer airline issues and lobbying efforts. Write to 529 14th St. NW, Suite 1265, Washington, DC 20045; call 202-638-4000; fax 202-638-0746; go online at www.acap1971.org.
The hotel industry is loosely knit. There is no overseeing body. The American Hotel and Motel Association does have some influence in mediating disputes but you must first go the management of the hotel in question and (if need be) the corporate office of the hotel's chain. Write to 1201 New York Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005-3931; call 202-289-3100; fax 202-289-3199; go on-line at www.ahma.com.
The American Resort Development Association is comprised of time-share sellers who operate under a stringent code of ethics. They offer a free brochure of tips to help you avoid potential scams. Write to 1220 L St. NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005; call 202-371-6700; fax 202-289-8544; go on-line at www.arda.org.
The Federal Maritime Commission monitors the solvency of cruise lines sailing from U.S. ports and will assist you if you are having trouble receiving settlement for injuries on board any U.S.-embarking cruise ship. Write to the Bureau of Consumer Complaints and Licensing, 800 N. Capitol St. NW, Washington, DC 20573; call 202-523-5807; fax 202-523-5830; go online at www.fmc.gov.
The vast majority of U.S. Senators can be contacted via the internet. A comprehensive list of email addresses can be found at www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm.
Check out travel agencies and tour companies or get help in mediating a dispute with any member agency from the American Society of Travel Agents. They also keep files on complaints regarding non-member agencies and offer free consumer brochures. Write to Consumer Affairs Department, 1101 King St., Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314; call 703-739-2782; fax 703-684-8319; go on-line at www.ASTAnet.com.
The Institute of Certified Travel Agents will refer you to legitimate agencies and travel specialists. Write to Box 812059, Wellesley, MA 02482-0012; call Phone 800-542-4282; fax 888-329-4282; go on-line at www.icta.com.
Contact the U.S. Tour Operators Association for information on reputable tour agencies. Write to 342 Madison Ave., Suite 1522, New York, NY 10173; call 212-599-6599; fax 212-579-6744; e-mail to email@example.com; go on-line at www.ustoa.com.
If you've been victimized by mail fraud, immediately notify the postal inspector at your local post office. You can also write to the Chief Postal Inspector of the U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20260; call 202-268-2000; go online at www.usps.com/postalinspectors.
EXCESSIVE PHONE CHARGES
If you encounter excessive phone charges or surcharges or if you'd like a free brochure titled Know The Phone Facts Before You Hit The Road, contact the Federal Communication Commission. Write to Informal Complaints and Public Inquires Branch, Mail Stop Code 1600 A2, Washington, DC 20554; call 888-225-5322; go on-line at www.fcc.gov.
Call for Action is a consumer advocacy group that assists victims of fraud. Write to 5272 River Rd., Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20816; call 800-647-1756; go online at www.callforaction.org.
The National Fraud Information Center offers free brochures and a consumer hotline. Their internet site contains preventative information. Write to Box 65868, Washington, DC 20590; call 800-876-7060; e-mail to E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; go on-line at www.fraud.org.
The American Association of Retired Persons has a particular interest in preventing seniors from being victimized by fraud. Write to Consumer Affairs Section; 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049; call 800-424-3410; go on-line at www.aarp.org.