Imagine a cool breeze, sand in your toes and a bright orange sunset. For many, this is the picture perfect description of a dream vacation; but if you aren’t careful your dream getaway could become an unexpected nightmare. That’s why the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reminds you to be on the lookout for scammers who want to put a dent in your travel budget this summer while taking you for a long ride to nowhere.
1. Watch out for “travel clubs” that promise their “paid members” will receive greatly reduced luxury cruises, cut rate prices at five-star resorts, and vague promises of free airline tickets with no strings attached for attending an invitation only, no-obligation “presentation”. Often these services do little except charge your credit card every month and provide few if any benefits.
2. Beware of timeshare deals that involve high-pressure sales pitches. These seminars are often thinly-veiled ways to get consumers to sign a contract that is full of hidden fees and traps.
3. Watch out for unsolicited e-mails, phone calls and faxes offering hard-to-believe deals on travel to desirable locations. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Avoid sales presentations that require you to “show” your credit card before you can participate or refuse to answer specific questions about the presentation unless you first pay a fee. Run, don’t walk from this event. You should never have to pay to receive information about a company and its business practices, or pay to collect a prize.
5. Check out any travel company you may be considering BEFORE giving them any money. A Better Business Bureau search is a good first step, followed by a call to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA .
6. Always use your credit card when purchasing a trip. If you feel that you’ve been swindled, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.
If you have been a victim of a vacation scam or have received an unsolicited phone call, e-mail or postal mail that you feel may be fraudulent please report your concerns to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov, FDACS at www.800helpfla.com or contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-477-1242.
To arrange to have someone come out to your community to talk about this or another safety or security topic please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Community Relations Section at (239) 477-1400.