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Shopping for a cruise? Here’s how to avoid scams

The cold weather may have many people down this winter. A winter getaway cruise could be in your future, but don’t let a cruise scam sink your plans. Your Better Business Bureau offers tips for finding a cruise that fits you and your budget.

In 2011, your BBB received more than 1,300 complaints against cruises across North America. Your BBB urges people to be careful with unsolicited offers of free or discounted cruises. The cruise industry brought in more than $37.8 billion to the U.S. economy with more than 14 million people taking cruises in 2010, according to the American Association of Port Authorities.

If you’re planning a cruise, your Better Business Bureau offers these tips:

• Don’t be a victim. Scam artists will use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to seal the deal. A reputable and trustworthy company will give you plenty of time to make a decision.

• Beware of great deals. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Always check with the company who’s offering the deal before making a decision.

• Pay with a credit card, so you can dispute any unauthorized charges with your credit card company.

• Don’t sign anything until you’ve read it over carefully. Before signing, make sure all trip details are clearly explained including pricing, dates of travel and any fees you may encounter.

• Consider investing in travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage or a canceled or interrupted trip, among other things.

• Ask questions. If you’re not sure about something, ask.

For more information, contact the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). You can also always get help from your BBB, such as business reviews on companies you’re considering working with. Visit or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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