Margaret Maynard, 68, loved to head from her home in Plainfield, Connecticut, to a casino in New York with a busload of fellow gamblers.
Maynard, who is retired from her job making potato chips for a snack manufacturer, and her husband, Joseph Mangarelli, played the slots with relatives and friends for three years as part of a periodic bus tour. Then in August, the tour operator left them with no ride and out hundreds of dollars just before a planned trip.
"We were very foolish. We should never have bought anything in advance,” Maynard says.
Her hard-earned lesson serves as a warning to travelers as the busy holiday travel season draws near.
Last year more than 30,000 people reported being cheated on vacation travel, with a median loss of $800, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a consumer protection agency.
The growing population of older Americans is vulnerable to vacation scams because many love to travel, says Amy Nofziger, AARP's director of Fraud Victim Support. Scammers will play on emotions. “Christmas travel is expensive — you want to see your family,” she says. “If you're in an emotional frenzy, you're not as careful."
60 million projected to travel
In 2019 about 60 million adults in the U.S. are planning to travel for Thanksgiving or the December holidays, according to a report by CreditCards.com.