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Unmasking the Hidden Costs of “Free” Vacation Scams: A Comprehensive Look

Advertisements and phone calls offering free vacations might sound enticing, but be warned: these seemingly free vacation scams can actually leave you with a significant dent in your wallet.

As the temperature rises during the summer months, so does the prevalence of free vacation scams. Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) caution travelers to be aware of potential scams, phonies, and frauds. With the FTC advising you to pack your sunscreen and ditch the SPF (scams, phonies, and frauds), the BBB also reports an increase in complaints regarding travel schemes. Travel can be a wonderful way to invest your time and money; however, the BBB Scam Tracker reveals that some vacation offers are far from genuine.

timeshare under a magnifying glass on a blue backgroundHere’s a closer look at how these scams typically operate: You’ll be contacted by someone purporting to represent a travel company or claiming to be affiliated with a well-known resort. They’ll inform you that you’ve been selected to receive a free vacation, and all you need to do is pay a reservation fee upfront and agree to attend a timeshare property or travel club tour. To sweeten the deal, you might be offered a gift card or show tickets to help offset the expense. However, as the FTC highlights, you will soon discover that you must pay various fees and taxes before you can claim your “free” vacation, making it far from cost-free.

Once you’ve agreed to participate in the tour, you may find yourself subjected to high-pressure sales tactics, urging you to purchase a vacation club membership on the spot. The fine print may stipulate that if you don’t attend the entire presentation or leave early, you’ll be required to pay the full price for your resort stay. These “Today Only” memberships may appear affordable at first glance, but they often come with hefty fees for purchasing, financing, and maintaining the membership.

Moreover, if you try to cancel the not-so-free vacation, you may face difficulties in getting your money back, regardless of whether you took the tour or not. As a result, these scams not only lead to financial losses but also leave vacationers with a sense of frustration and disappointment.

To protect yourself from falling victim to these free vacation scams, it’s important to stay informed, read the fine print, and be cautious of any offers that seem too good to be true. By doing so, you can ensure that your well-deserved vacation remains a stress-free and enjoyable experience.

Tips To Avoid Free Vacation Scams

Hang up the phone if you receive a robocall offering a free vacation: Legitimate travel companies do not use robocalls to reach potential customers.

Do your research before you agree to anything: Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau and search for customer reviews about free vacations on travel websites.

Never pay upfront fees for a free vacation offer: You shouldn’t have to pay anything to receive a free prize.

Beware of pressure to buy: Free vacation scams often include high-pressure sales tactics. If you feel like you’re being pressured into buying something, walk away.

When it comes to free vacation offers, scammers are trying to take advantage of your need to find economical travel options. As the old saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That’s certainly the case with free vacation offers.

Fixing a consumer problem

Consumer Protection Resources

When in doubt, don’t give in to pressure to purchase a vacation on the spot. Scammers will often try to rush you into a purchase and provide additional tour incentives to get a potential buyer to commit. Consumer protection resources are available to help you make informed decisions about free vacation offers and other travel opportunities.

-The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works to protect consumers from fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices.

-The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization that provides resources to help consumers find businesses they can trust.

-Your state’s attorney general or local consumer protection office may have information about free vacation deals and other travel-related frauds in the travel sector.

Dodging Deceptive Deals: How to Safeguard Your Vacation

Travel scams come in all shapes and sizes. Just because a company says that they represent a name-brand travel company, doesn’t mean they are legitimate. Do your homework and research any travel opportunity, free vacation offer, or timeshare presentation thoroughly before you commit to anything. A little legwork on the front end can help you avoid being scammed out of your hard-earned money on vacation.

If you’ve been a victim of a free vacation scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC. Consult a timeshare attorney if you have an issue with your timeshare and especially if you have a timeshare through a travel firm. You may need to speak with a timeshare attorney about what alternatives are open to you and whether you have a case to pursue, depending on the problem and especially if you acquired your timeshare through a travel club business.

This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. Always consult with a travel safety specialist or your attorney before making travel plans. also has travel safety information for international travel.


With over 75 years of combined legal experience, Finn Law Group, led by Attorneys Michael D. Finn and J. Andrew Meyer, specialize in consumer protection, primarily addressing timeshare-related issues. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation if you need guidance on a travel-related situation or suspect you’ve fallen prey to a free vacation scam. Call 855-FINN-LAW or email [email protected]

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