You are at a coffee shop, waiting for your caffè latte, when you impulsively decide to fill in a form promoting a free holiday. Or you are relaxing in front of the TV when you receive a telephone call saying you’ve been selected to receive a travel package free of charge? Unfortunately, these scenarios are very common. And the harsh truth is that everyone who fills in a form and everyone who receives a phone call is told they have been ‘selected.’ You may believe you have ‘won’ a free holiday, but the reality is that the trip promoted will probably end up costing you a lot of money.
Does anyone really win those free holidays? Well, no. Has anyone won a free holiday ever, apart from maybe on a television game show or a church raffle? This telemarketing scam has existed for a long time, and it seems to be very successful. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, millions of dollars are made on telemarketing schemes such as this every month, leaving unwitting consumers well out of pocket.
These types of scams are generally conceived of in ‘boiler rooms.’ A boiler room is a euphemism used to describe any place where highly skilled salespeople call lists of possible buyers in the hope of selling them fraudulent products, services or securities. These lists are often referred to as ‘sucker lists’ for obvious reasons. These salespeople deliver sales pitches about travel deals that appear to be genuine, but more often than not are scams.
So what should you look out for when you receive a call from someone selling you a ‘free’ holiday? Here are some tips:
- The salesperson may request your credit card details. The second you hear the words credit card number, you should become suspicious and may want to end the telephone conversation then and there.
- If you do unknowingly go ahead and give your credit card details, you may be sent a set a list of steps you need to complete to confirm your reservation. It may cost you even more money to make and finalise your reservation. By now you should be feeling worried. Your ‘free’ holiday is already costing you a small fortune. Moreover, the conditions placed on the holiday could be so restrictive that you can never actually take the trip. Or, the reservation may not even be approved.
- Another trick scammers use is to present you with rather convincing deals. They will often try to sell club memberships or discounted holiday packages, rather than trying to scam you out of all your money. Because they sound believable such fraudulent deals can be difficult to spot. Keep your eyes open for restrictions, hidden fees and fees to upgrade.
- Be wary of any travel offers that do not openly disclose information about the company offering them, such as its name and location. It is also a must to receive everything in writing before you pay anything. Before you commit to anything read the cancellation policies carefully and review all terms and conditions.
- These expert salespeople also use high-pressure tactics and tend to say something along the lines of ‘If you don’t accept our offer immediately it will expire’ or ‘Don’t miss this one-time opportunity.’ Also, they generally dismiss or overlook any concern you may have.