Scams a threat to students on spring break

By April Dahlquist

The beginning of spring break looms over campus as many students prepare to fly southward with only sleep, sun and sand on the brain.

Scam, however, is another word that should be added to the list as a number of students find themselves in the trap of a spring break swindle.

Thomas Betz, director of Student Legal Service, said that while most students do have a positive experience over spring break, there are about eight to 25 students who do come back every year having had some type of trouble.

Betz said the type of popular scams change year to year. A few years ago, hotels severely overbooked and did not have enough room for all their guests.

More recently, the scams have involved charging extra fees like damage deposits. Often during the spring break season, hotels make students pay $200 to $300 in case of damage, which the guests are not likely to get back at the end of their stay, Betz said.

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    The main problems occur when students don’t read the fine print of their packaged deals, which indicate they might be subject to additional fees depending on hotels or airlines, Betz said.

    “I’ve seen this every year, it’s not that uncommon of a practice,” he said. “I think students have become more aware of this practice out there and now anticipate that they might have to pay the deposit.”

    April Thomas, manager of Travel Cuts on Green Street, said that the company provides the best service that it can for students.

    “We’re careful and we always ask the hotel if they actually allow spring breakers to come because a lot of hotels don’t,” Thomas said.

    Travel Cuts only books spring break vacations through Student City, the one agency Travel Cuts has found to be reliable, Thomas said. For other vacations it uses a variety of traveling companies.

    Some students, however, have had trouble with Student City in the past.

    “I had such a bad experience with Student City,” said Kristin Sulkowski, Indiana University alumna.

    Student City declined to comment.

    Betz suggests students use a travel agency that operates year-round like Travel Cuts or use the Internet and book the vacation themselves. He also suggests students make sure they know their flight number and hotel they are staying at, so they can research on their own as well.

    “Companies that just promote themselves for spring break are risky,” Betz said. “They don’t have a full-time staff, and they could possibly operate just out of a post office box.”

    Betz also warns students about leaving valuable items in their apartments over break.

    “This is the prime time for thieves. Thieves love spring break, Thanksgiving break and Christmas break,” Betz said. “It’s the pot of gold for a thief, and theft is one of the larger side effects of spring break, more than the consumer scams.”

    Most of the scams, however, will not be revealed until after spring break happens, even as late as the May credit card bill, Betz said. He just advises students to be skeptical of extremely low prices and to always follow the law.

    “It’s OK to let your hair down, but keep your wits,” Betz said.