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— By BRADLY GILL

Staff writer

With schools letting out soon, many residents of Ouachita County will head out on vacations, but the Arkansas Attorney General is warning about websites that may take advantage of customers.

Third-party travel websites are popular but some may charge Arkansans unnecessary, hidden fees, the attorney general warns.

As Arkansans begin to make summer vacation plans, they should use caution when going online for services, including booking travel through an online third-party vendor.

“Some unscrupulous online travel vendors use deceptive and misleading marketing tactics to convince consumers they are talking directly to a hotel,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

“In these situations, the consumer is actually talking to a third party that may charge additional fees and may cause the reservation and any special reservation requests to be lost or incorrectly recorded.”

Rutledge urges all Arkansans to observe the recommendations of the Better Business Bureau and the American Hotel and Lodging Association to ensure safe travel booking:

• Whenever possible, book directly with the hotel or resort.

• If using a third-party booking site, make sure the site is legitimate. Do not trust a website just because it appears to be legitimate or comes up near the top of online search results.

• The best hotel deals are often available far in advance. Planning ahead will give the opportunity to research different sites, compare options and amenities, and lock in a good rate.

• Avoid broad internet searches like “best deals” or “cheapest rates.” Broad search terms can sometimes lead to websites that look official, but are not.

Deceptive travel sites often pose as the actual hotel’s website, even using the hotel’s name in the URL and its logo and copyrighted images throughout the site.

Double check the website address before providing your credit card information.

• Call the hotel a few weeks before the travel date to confirm the reservation.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission settled a federal lawsuit with a third-party hotel-booking website accused of misleading consumers into believing they were booking directly with a hotel.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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