Free Vacation Scams
Does Everyone Win a Free Vacation?
The Price Was Right! Or Was it Too Good?
In August of 2021, the BBB released a national public service announcement on social media that highlighted warnings to consumers about alleged “Free” Vacation Scams. The investigators shared concerns on travel companies that had displayed a lack of disclosures about fees, charges, taxes, tips, and other related costs that consumers would normally not expect to pay when pitched a Free Vacation.
Consistent in many complaints were two major take-aways:
- Pressure to Accept the Offer Now or Its Gone Forever
- Pricing, Accommodations and Several Amenities that Seem Extremely Reasonable are Probably Not True.
These mini-vacation agreements required a commitment to attend a timeshare presentation and tour with a spouse or significant other. Pricing and Accommodations also included time and use restrictions for these programs. As tours are the primary sales and marketing model that resort developers use to attract prospects to their properties, several timeshare and travel clubs employ outside tour companies to solicit potential consumers with these -sort of- limited time free vacation offers. Tour reps generally make contact in person, over the phone, via email and even by text and use a sense of urgency to book these tours.
These OPC’s can be seen at booths or kiosks at outlet malls, amusement parks and sports stadiums. Looking further into the various issues, the FTC categorized – Travel, Vacations, and Timeshare Plans as a group that ranked 13th overall in consumer complaints last year. The FTC’s own Consumer Sentinel Network Data reveals 73,338 complaints were filed in 2020 alone.
The BBB says to pay attention to the red flags when it comes to unexpected solicitation, Walk Away, Hang Up the Phone, Delete the Email or Text Message.