In this “News Room” space, we often highlight the myriad scams that target timeshare or travel club consumers desperately seeking relief from their costly obligations, including the all-too-common timeshare resale scam.
Recently, our attention was piqued by a different type of vacation club-related fraud all-together.
Specifically, a Denver court recently ordered the owners and operators of an alleged travel club to pay over $7 million to Colorado for defrauding consumers. Why? Their so-called “travel clubs” – which included Sea to Ski Vacations and Traditions Travel Group – didn’t actually exist as they were described.
Here’s how the process worked, according to a press release brought to our attention by timeshare industry news site Inside the Gate:
“The [owners and operators] promised members of their travel club deep discounts at exotic hotels and timeshares around the world. In reality, the [actors] did nothing more than search online travel websites to book their clients’ travels. Consumers ultimately paid… thousands of dollars for a service they could have gotten online for free.”
It’s worth noting that the operators’ “sales pitch” for their scam involved “mailing postcards claiming that the recipient had won free airline tickets and other prizes, often using airline logos to suggest the airlines knew about these offers,” according to a press release.
As the Colorado AG warns, “similar postcards using [recognizable] logos are frequently used to attract consumers to travel club and timeshare presentations.” (We have some information on those advertisements for timeshare sales presentations available here.)
Both of the companies in question have been “voluntarily dissolved,” according to a report from the Denver Post.
In addition to the $7 million payout, the judge’s decision – stemming from a 2013 lawsuit filed by then-Colorado Attorney General John Suthers – bars the owners and operators of the companies from “owning or working for any company that sells timeshares, condominium reservations, hotel reservations, airline tickets, or cruise line reservation,” according to the Post.
We’ll leave you with some key advice from Colorado’s current AG, Cynthia Coffman, who fears that the perpetrators of this fraud may still be “continuing to operate in other states.” As she puts it,
“I urge all consumers to be careful and to do their homework before giving their hard earned money to any company, and to immediately report any fraud or suspicious behavior.”
Above all, it pays to remember to take every “too-good-to-be-true” vacation offer with a grain of salt, and that you should not hesitate to reach out to consumer protection officials in your state with any questions or concerns about a potential travel or timeshare scam.
For more on this case, we encourage you to read the full press release over at Inside the Gate; local news media also has a wealth of valuable information on this case, which you can view over at the Denver Post and CBS Denver.
Led by Attorney Michael D. Finn with 50 years of experience, the Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in timeshare law. Our lawyers understand vacation ownership as well as the many pitfalls of the secondary market of timeshare resales. If you feel you have been victimized by a timeshare company, contact our offices for a free consultation. Know your rights as a consumer and don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns.