Protect yourself from the travel scammers of summer

how to avoid the scams of summer
how to avoid the scams of summer

If you've ever fallen for a travel scam, you're not alone. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission got 15,386 complaints last year related to travel, vacation or timeshare plans.

Like offers for free vacations that aren't really free after you pay the hidden fees. Nonrefundable deposits to secure cut-rate rentals that don't exist. And trip packages to see a favorite sports team in a championship that don't include game tickets. Sound familiar?

Then there's the New York charity volunteer who got a cruise voucher at the group's holiday party, and spent thousands to upgrade it, only to find out the purported travel agent never booked the trip. Or the two travel companies in Pennsylvania now being sued by that state's attorney general's office for allegedly misleading customers in one case and taking payments for trips never booked in the other.

And those are just cases that get reported.