Travel scams take on many different forms, but two common categories are travel clubs and travel certificates.
Travel clubs usually involve the following:
- Travel club "representatives" usually solicit consumers over the phone or through mailings, often luring you in with a claim that you have won a prize (e.g. airline tickets or a gift card) and must attend a sales presentation to collect your prize.
- The presentation will likely be a high-pressure sales demonstration in which consumers are promised discounted travel rates.
- Membership fees are often steep and can reach thousands of dollars.
- Members are often charged an annual fee each year, even after they have paid their membership fee.
Travel certificates often involve the following:
- They are usually mailed to consumers' homes.
- They include a telephone number and urge recipients to call a toll-free number to collect their vacation "prize" right away or the offer will be gone.
- Consumers are often required to attend a meeting and/or complete paperwork before they are able to claim their prize.
Another type of travel scam involves timeshares. During tough economic times, when timeshare owners decide they can no longer afford their timeshare, fraudulent and deceptive solicitations pop up that offer to help timeshare owners sell their timeshares for a fee. Once consumers pay the fee, their timeshares are not sold and their telephone calls and emails to the business go unanswered. Unfortunately, the scam doesn’t always stop there. A second business will then contact the consumer offering to help them recover the money they lost in the first scam for a fee. Much like the first scam, no money is recovered and telephone calls and emails are not answered.
Some warnings and tips:
- Beware of any organization or group that holds its presentations in temporary or short-term quarters, such as a hotel or motel or does not provide a permanent, physical address.
- Get as many details about travel offers as possible in writing, before making a decision.
- Remember, you should never have to pay anything for a prize. A true prize should be free.
- Request all information in writing.
- Before you sign a contract or agreement, read the terms and conditions.
- Ask for details about how your timeshare will be advertised.
- Be sure to check with the Arizona Department of Real Estate (www.re.state.az.us) to ensure the person or company that is offering to sell your timeshare on your behalf is registered in Arizona.
- Before you pay a business to help you recover money from a scam or to file a complaint or claim on your behalf, check whether you can complete any forms on your own. If the complaint or claim will be filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, call us first!