Lenox Police Chief offers advice to prevent vacation scams


February 22nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Lenox Police Chief John Huggins is offering some advice on how to prevent getting scammed when it comes to making your vacation plans. Even though summer is a ways off yet,many people have begun to think about where they would like to vacation. Don’t let your vacation turn into a nightmare because someone takes advantage of you! There are a lot of vacation scams out there. It makes sense, when you think about it: we all want to save money, and with the economy in its current state, many people are working hard, long hours without any hope of a holiday. The idea of two weeks in Paradise for absolutely free is hard to resist.

Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous individuals who prey on those exact desires. Their jobs are to lure you in with promises of a free vacation and then get money out of you any way they can. Fortunately, you’re too smart for them (you’re reading this, after all!). Here’s how to spot a vacation scam before it goes too far. There are many warning signs that you’re dealing with a vacation scam. Of course, there are legitimate opportunities to win a free vacation, but usually these require you to actively enter. For example, a travel agency might offer a drawing for a free vacation in order to drum up business.

Unsolicited emails and phone calls, on the other hand, usually aren’t going to hand you a free holiday. Here’s how the scam works: you get a phone call or an email informing you that you have a limited time offer to win a free vacation, or to purchase a vacation at a ridiculously discounted price. All you have to do is answer a few survey questions. So you phone the toll free number and talk to someone who asks you a few routine questions to make the operation look legit. They then congratulate you on winning a free vacation and tell you it’s a limited time offer with only a few vacations remaining, and they need your credit card immediately to pay for port taxes or the like. Once you give them that information, they may or may not tell you that the package is non-refundable. You probably won’t get that money back without involving a lawyer. Here’s what happens next.

There are a variety of free vacation scams, but they all work in more or less the same way:

-You arrive at your destination to find that the food is terrible and the accommodations are dirty and cramped. When you complain, you find that they can give you an upgrade for a ludicrously inflated price.

– You arrive at your destination to find that the food is terrible and the accommodations are dirty and cramped. When you complain, you find that if you choose to move to a new hotel, they will not pay for your return airfare.

-You arrive at your destination to find that your ‘holiday’ will consist at least 50% of time share presentations and high pressure sales tactics.

-Even before you arrive, the fees start to appear: $100 in taxes here, $200 in supplemental fees there.

Here’s the unfortunate truth: it’s very rare to get something for nothing. A free vacation is no exception. Protect yourself from free vacation scams by practicing a healthy dose of skepticism.