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This is the time of year when families and other travels begin to book spring and summer vacations, which means it’s also time to be on guard for bad or bogus travel deals.

This is the time of year when families and other travels begin to book spring and summer vacations, which means it’s also time to be on guard for bad or bogus travel deals.

Too often the best travel deals offered around this time are simply too good to be true. Bogus travel deals cost consumers more than $10 billion each year, estimates the Better Business Bureau. Want to make sure you’re soaked by ocean waves and not a bad travel salesperson? Do your homework before you book.

Here are five steps Travelzoo.com’s Senior Editor Gabe Saglie says consumers should follow to verify a deal:

Do Your Homework. Call the travel provider and ask for details on final pricing, including all taxes and fees. Also, compare that final number against other market pricing to the same destination to make sure the offer is really a deal.

Ask What Exactly Is Included. Does that free three-night stay come with a requirement to attend a high-pressure 90-minute timeshare sales pitch? Does that drastically reduced rate come with a pricey daily “resort fee?” More and more, hotels are tacking on additional fees such “resort” or “housekeeping” fees that aren’t included in the featured price of a deal. Also, double check that the destination you are flying into doesn’t have a “departure tax” at the airport. While typically minimal, better to be prepared before arriving at the payment desk.

Check References. From word-of-mouth to the Better Business Bureau’s database, do research on the travel provider, especially when it comes to paying up to companies you may not know.

Verify Web Site Security. Before entering credit card information online, check to make sure the web address starts with “https”, and not just “http” or anything else. The extra “s” in https signifies a secure a site for credit card purchases and personal information.

Confirm What You Buy. When possible, pay with a credit card. This is the safest way to pay for travel online since you can dispute charges for services you don’t get. The trick is reporting fraudulent charges promptly. Once you’ve booked through a vacation company, confirm directly with the travel provider (i.e., airline, hotel, transportation, etc.) to make sure your itinerary matches their records. Make sure to print out all the details of your trip, including confirmation numbers and contact information for all companies that are part of your travel.

Scary Travel Stats:

Out of the 3,900 industries the BBB monitors, the travel industry consistently ranks near or in the top 40 for number of complaints.

In 2007, BBB received the following number of complaints by industry:

Travel Agencies & Bureaus = 5,834

Airlines = 4,777

Hotels = 4,897

Timeshare companies = 1,917

Travel Clubs = 1,118

In 2008 BBB received the following number of complaints by industry:

Travel Agencies & Bureaus = 5,219

Airlines = 5,103

Hotels = 5,062

Timeshare companies = 1,731

Travel Clubs = 1,190