I have until Friday to cough up $14,000 – should I pay?

Olyy/Shutterstock
Olyy/Shutterstock
Given my backlog of cases, it’s unusual to cover something I just heard about a few hours ago. It’s even more unusual to redact the name of both the passenger and the airline.

But as you’ll see in a minute, this is a highly unusual problem with an imminent deadline. At stake? The highest-level elite status and several million frequent flier miles.

Oh, and the fate of our republic.

I’m kidding.
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Why fake reviews don’t really matter

Catchawan/Shutterstock
Catchawan/Shutterstock
Don’t believe everything you read online, especially on user-generated review websites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, which claim to help you find the best hotels and restaurants.

At least that’s the standard warning issued repeatedly by travel experts for the last decade. The ratings are rigged by hotel or restaurant operatives, or by unhappy patrons trying to shame a business, they say. Since the sites make no meaningful efforts to stop these bogus posts, all the so-called user-generated sites should be ignored when you’re planning your next trip.

That’s wrong.
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Travel insurance claims can hinge on the tiniest details

Thinking of making a claim? Read this first. / Photo by W. Shonbrun - Flickr
When it comes to travel insurance claims, Hannah Yun was about as sure as anyone that hers would be successful.

She’d bought a gold-plated “cancel for any reason” policy for a trip to South Korea. When her boyfriend proposed and she decided to call off the trip to start planning her wedding, she thought that collecting a check would be just a formality.

Wrong.
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Frequently asked questions about travel insurance

Should I buy travel insurance - or not? / Photo by Horrigan S - Flickr
Travel insurance used to be a small segment of the insurance business that protected people against the loss of a non-refundable deposit on a big-ticket vacation such as a safari or a round-the-world cruise. But the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and a series of natural disasters in the early 2000s pushed it into the mainstream. Today, it’s hard to find a travel agent or travel site that doesn’t try to sell an optional insurance policy as part of a trip.

But should you buy one? That depends. Here are the most frequently asked questions about travel insurance:
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Can this trip be saved? Help, American Airlines wants $20,000!

Nancy Schmuhl thought she’d paid for her American Airlines tickets. But the airline had one last bill for her: A $20,000 invoice for “certain fraudulent bookings” she is alleged to have made.

You should read the letter it sent to her. I’ll get to that in a minute.

In the meantime, you’re probably wondering: What kind of fraudulent bookings?

Schmuhl made several fictitious reservations which she later canceled. Regular readers of this site will remember a previous American Airlines case. And United Airlines famously confiscated a passenger’s miles for similar behavior.
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