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BBB warns students, families to beware of spring break scams

ST. LOUIS — Students eager to take time off from classes are being advised to watch out for spring break scams as they try to escape winter weather

Better Business Bureau of Eastern St. Louis and Southern Illinois advises students to be wary of travel deals that seem too good to be true. Parents and other relatives should be skeptical of calls purportedly coming from students stranded in distant locations, as scammers see the popularity of spring break trips as an opportunity to pull the so-called “grandparent scam.”

Many online sites offer deals on travel. Some are legitimate, while others may be scams. BBB advises students to deal with reputable sites when booking travel, checking a site’s reservation policies and other fine print before booking deals. Package deals may be touted as all-inclusive, but be sure you understand exactly what is included.

Here are some BBB tips to avoid disappointment with travel deals:

  • Book through a reliable travel agent or travel site. Check its BBB Business Review at or find a BBB Accredited Business. Accredited Businesses must adhere to the BBB’s 8 standards of trust, requiring that they advertise honestly, be transparent, and honor promises.
  • Get details about your trip in writing. Be sure to confirm the details, such as total cost, any restrictions, flights, hotel reservations and car rental.
  • Pay with a credit card. Paying by credit card offers the most protection should something go wrong because you can challenge the charges.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for particular perils which are specific conditions under which it will pay claims. Be sure to shop around and read the terms and conditions before purchasing.
  • Use caution when considering deals. If a deal or package offers a lot for a very low price, be wary. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Be wary of claims you “won” a trip. Generally if you’ve truly won something, it will be given to you as a gift and there are no hidden fees. Be especially leery if the offer is unsolicited. Check on any offers with BBB.

Parents and other relatives should be aware of the grandparent scam, which usually starts with a call from someone claiming to be a person you know (often a child or grandchild) who is stranded or needs money to get out of jail or deal with another emergency.

If you get such a call, resist any request to send money immediately. Ask for a phone number to contact the person back, then check with other relatives to determine the whereabouts of the person who is allegedly stranded. A request for you to send money by Western Union, MoneyGram or a prepaid card like Green Dot MoneyPak is often a scam.

Remember to check a company’s BBB Business Review by going to or by calling (314) 645-3300.

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