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How to Protect Yourself From Travel Scams

Bob Edwards provides tips on how to keep yourself safe on your next vacation

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Bob Edwards: Hello, I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP Take on Today.

There is growing bipartisan support for action on the epidemic of high prescription drug prices, and it's sweeping across the country. Last week's episode focused on a prescription drug importation bill in Florida, now on the verge of becoming law, that would create state programs to import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. But the state plan requires federal approval in order to be put in place. Reports this week indicate that President Trump has signaled his support for the legislation, and has directed HHS secretary Azar to work with Governor DeSantis. Listen to Episode 43 to hear more about the growing support for the state legislation and the stories shared by those who are impacted by high prescription drug prices.

Americans love to travel, and people age 50 and older are no exception. In fact, they spend an estimated 150 billion dollars a year on leisure travel. Last year travelers lost almost 70 million dollars to travel-related scams. The highest in five years. A new AARP survey shows that older travelers may have a blind spot to potential pitfalls in the planning and booking process. According to a recent AARP survey, many older travelers are not concerned about scams. That could be a serious mistake. Roughly half of adults between age 18 an 49 report being concerned about booking scams while only a quarter of those 50 and older say the same.

Scams can come in many forms. Popular scams include con artists trying to sell vacations that either don't exist or aren't as advertised. Offering to sell your timeshare for a fee or hiding their identities as middlemen so they can get a cut of your cash. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your next vacation from Kathy Stokes of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Kathy Stokes: There are a lot of good deals out there, and then there are a lot of good deals that are too good to be true. So, it's typically a red flag if you see something that's incredibly cheap, and if you just act now, then you can lock it in. You really need to do your research. Some scammers will actually use real vacation rental properties, and swap the information for contact out with his own material so that you're not contacting the actual rental owner but him or her. So, you can do searches on the image that comes with the rental posting. You want to watch out for websites that you're not familiar with that are posting rental opportunities because that could be a sign that it's a scam.

The groups like Vrbo and Airbnb have a lot of pretty strong policies in place to try to prevent these kind of things from happening, but they do slip in. So, you just have to do your due diligence. You definitely want to contact the person or the location. If it's a condo in a hotel or on the beach somewhere, call ahead and make sure that actually exists. Just be vigilant.

My sort of tag line is if you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam. So, we have a big library. We call it the Fraud Resource Center at AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork. There's just easy to read tip sheets about the various scams and how you can protect yourself from them.

Bob Edwards: Thank you.

Kathy Stokes: You're welcome.

Bob Edwards: That was Kathy Stokes from the AARP Fraud Watch Network. For more resources and tips to protect you and your family from scams, visit AARP.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

But being smart about your travel budget is not just about thwarting illegal activity. Some trip-planning choices can simply end up costing you more money than necessary or spoiling your vacation because the reality falls short of what's been promised. And remember no matter the price, never send payment directly to an owner. Always pay for your online booking through a reputable site or app. They are the intermediaries for a reason to keep you safe. Visit AARP.org/travel for more information about how to travel with a bit more confidence and enjoy your trip to the fullest extent.

Norman Mineta has led an eventful life: US Army Veteran, longtime Congressman, cabinet member for two presidents, Mayor of San Jose, California. The now 87 year old's achievements are made even more remarkable by his early years when he and his family were among the Japanese Americans forced to live in an internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the US into WWII against Japan. Beginning on May 20th, PBS will air an AARP sponsored documentary portrait of that life.

“Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story” includes tributes by the two presidents in whose cabinets he served, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The documentary also details Mineta's extraordinary friendship with former US Senator Alan Simpson which began when they were both 11-year-old Boy Scouts, and Mineta was detained in Cody, Simpson's small Wyoming town. The two have remained close friends ever since.

The documentary of Norman Mineta's compelling journey will be accompanied by free online educational material developed by Stanford University. To learn more, go to manettalegacyproject.com.

The rise of robots in the workplace is no longer a fictional fantasy. For some time now, assembly line workers have worked side by side with their manufactured micro chipped colleagues. But when it comes to replacing human beings with hunks of artificially intelligent metal for more personal tasks and interactions, all bets are off. Judging from a Japanese hotel's recent experience, human workers can rest easy. The Henn Na Hotel in Nagasaki, recently let go its staff of about 240 robots. Grounds for dismissal, they kept getting their wires crossed. The check-in robots had trouble answering guests questions and couldn't photocopy passports. Luggage carrying bell hop robots couldn't adequately maneuver the hotel's passages and grounds, were unable to reach about three-quarters of the rooms, and often conked out in rain or snow. The in-room assistant robot dolls were equally as incompetent. They couldn't answer basic questions and mistaking snores for queries would awaken guests in the night by yelping, "Could you repeat your request?" The robot workers now experience an all too human status, unemployment.

For more visit AARP.org/podcast. Become a subscriber and be sure to rate our podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, and other podcast apps.

Thanks for listening. I'm Bob Edwards.

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Travelers lost almost $70 million to travel related scams last year and a new AARP survey found many travelers may have a blind spot when it comes to protecting themselves. Tune in to pick up some new tips to avoid scams when planning your next vacation.

Also, an update on last week’s episode: reports indicate that President Trump has signaled his support for Florida’s drug importation bill that could cut prescription costs, and has directed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to work with Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.

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