To receive this offer, consumers may have to make a purchase or attend a sales presentation. Companies may require a non-refundable processing and handling fee, or a refundable deposit of $50 to $100 to reserve a vacation offer (which won't be returned until after a vacation has been taken). Some deals are genuine, but nearly all involve fine print which makes the offer sound less "too good to be true" than upon first glance.
Instant travel offers. Companies may offer special discounted travel rates, but be aware that only suppliers of such travel services - like cruiselines, hotels, auto rental companies, airlines - can offer discounts to their services.
Demanding sales representatives. Representatives may try to elicit a credit card number or other financial information before explaining the conditions of their offer, saying they will use the information for "identification purposes." If a sales representative refuses to provide detailed information about the total cost of the travel offer without this financial information, this may result in misuse of your credit card.
Memberships or fees. Some companies may require you to become a member of a travel club or to pay an initial fee to claim a vacation or travel prize. Others may offer low airfare or other rates if you purchase the same ticket or service for a companion, at full price. These "full price" costs or other fees may be inflated, reducing the bargain of your travel deal.
Courier offers. Companies may require you to serve as a messenger or courier to deliver something on their behalf, which in reality may be the company's attempt to subvert U.S. postal authorities.
Before you commit to any travel or vacation deal of this nature:
- Read the rules carefully. Do you meet the required conditions to claim your prize, such as age, marital status, or homeowner status?
- Determine all costs involved in using a vacation certificate. It will be your responsibility to pay for anything not specifically mentioned.
- Find out which expenses you are expected to cover. Do you pay for hotel, timeshare resort or other lodging? Meals? Transportation from your home to the resort? Transportation from the airport to the lodging accommodation? Are there any port taxes when visiting a foreign country?
Be sure to ask questions, such as:
- Do you have to travel to a distant location before the company pays for "free" travel?
- Are there additional fees for the peak tourist season? When is the peak season?
- What happens if the hotel or other accommodations are completely booked? What will the company do if it can't match your request with a specific vacation time? Can you get your money back?
- If a refundable deposit is required, when and how do you get it back?
- Can you make your own travel arrangements, or do you have to use a specific travel agent?
- Is the rate competitive with rates available through other travel agents, airlines, etc.?
If you feel that you have been a victim of a vacation or travel scam, or if you would like more information, please contact the AGO's Public Inquiry & Assistance Center Hotline at (617) 727-8400, or file a consumer complaint.