A new consumer travel protection Web site for consumers who encountered vacation or reservation problems was launched this week by a former director of a consumer travel restitution agency. Through one location consumers can now access their state Attorney General's consumer protection agencies, federal travel consumer protection sites, share their issues on discussion boards and even opt for mediation with their travel company.

The site, TravelProblem.com, was created by Zigmund Sepanski, former director of California Travel Consumer Restitution Corp., a government-created entity to reimburse qualified consumers for travel fraud. "During my years on the board I saw hundreds of consumers being taken by unscrupulous or just plain negligent companies," stated Sepanski. "It is not the hard-working honest travel agent that is the problem, but a new breed of crooks who prey on innocent consumers by taking their deposits and never delivering the travel package," he continued.

"The latest scams now offer bogus travel business opportunities where you supposedly get commission just like travel agents. They even promise you free cruises, free trips, stock investment opportunities, thousands in income, all designed to entice you to join. Some charge you from $400 to $8,000 for the 'opportunity.' Stay away from those," continued Sepanski.

With the growth of the Internet many crooks have jumped in to fleece the unsuspecting consumer. TravelProblem.com will help them see if there were any other complaints, check whether the seller is registered where required and, if the seller ignores their requests, opt for mediation before taking legal steps or just dropping the issue. Consumers who do not receive what they ordered can go on this site and reach the proper authorities quickly.

According to Sepanski there are several ways to protect yourself:

1. Use a credit card that you can challenge if the service was not provided as purchased.

2. Always get a printed itinerary and a receipt before you pay in full.

3. Don't pay in full up front if your trip is many months away.

4. If buying from a travel agent (Web or brick and mortar) ask for proof of payment to the supplier, such as a cruise line or airline receipt showing payment.

5. If you priced out several agencies or Web sites and one is much lower than the others, then watch out ... that is not a good sign.

6. You get what you pay for. You may want the cheapest price now, but how will your vacation of a lifetime or honeymoon feel in a dump overlooking the highway?

7. Even if booking on the Web, talk to the people behind the Web first. If they can't give you advice then you are on your own and you should buy from someone else.

8. All sellers who sell to California residents over the Web must register in that state. Check with that state's Attorney General's office. Most reputable travel companies are registered there.

9. Make sure that taxes are included. Web sites quote a discount price and when you are ready to check out you could be hit with a 12 percent or more tax bill.

10. Don't fall for "become a travel agent" schemes that promise free trips, quick wealth through free stock, 50 percent off on trips, etc. If you are looking into a legitimate travel agent business opportunity the site will soon list the five top legitimate operations.

Related Link: TravelProblem.com