In a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission, scams involving travel have been found to be among the top ranked in complaints for the past several years. These offers can come in many forms from entering a contest at the county fair to email contacts, but they all have several things in common. Solicitors want your personal and credit card information so they can charge fees and services while reselling your information to telemarketing companies. These individuals often refuse to identify themselves or their companies and require that claiming prizes be delayed for at least 60 days which is the time it takes for a credit card company to cancel any charges on a card.
One of the best ways to spot a scam is to question the contact person until they begin what’s called a hard-sell. This is where they ask questions to which an individual must answer “yes.” For example, they may say, “Don’t you want to take a vacation in a tropical paradise?” or “Don’t you deserve a break?” Of course you deserve a break and would love to take it in paradise. By getting an individual to answer “yes” to a successive series of questions, they are more likely to get you to say “yes” to claiming the “prize,” which doesn’t really exist.
There are several ways to identify a scam from a legitimate promotion or contest and, in the end, following some simple rules can save you thousands of dollars as well as anxiety, aggravation, and disappointment. It’s important to remember that some companies will offer something for free in order to get personal information that can be sold for marketing purposes. If receiving notification by email, however, it should be deleted immediately if the sender is unknown. If it is opened and only images are shown with no substantial information, it is more than likely a scam and spyware has probably been loaded onto your computer by the time you realize it.
With legitimate offers, vacation details should be provided in writing along with a copy of the cancellation and refund policies. Vague terms such as “luxury cruise ship” and “major hotels” are warning signs. You need to know where you’re going, how long you will be there, and the address and telephone numbers for all aspects of the trip. You also need to call vendors for verification that the price quoted includes all fees. This should be done prior to the time any personal or credit card information is provided to the solicitor.
Travel agents offering promotional trips will run credit card charges through cruise lines and not the agency they represent. If the cruise line is not listed on the statement this should be a warning flag. The agent should also provide the booking number that will allow access to the booking details. These can be accessed directly through cruise line websites once the number has been provided. This also works with airline reservations.
If the contact uses questionable language such as “You’ve won a dream vacation to a coveted destination” they aren’t really promising the trip will be free so be wary. This is also true for verbiage such as “subject to availability” or “run of the ship” which isn’t really promising anything. Even if a trip is won an individual should expect minimum accommodations and no amenities. These are just a few of the things to watch for in cruise scams. Caution is always a good policy along with remembering that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.