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Luxury vacation offer may be a scam

Susan Ladika

If you’re hoping for a hot time vacationing at a luxurious tropical resort this summer, you could wind up cooling your heels if you fall for a new travel scam.

Fraudsters have been busily calling, faxing and emailing individuals and businesses around the country, with one scam promising five-day, four-night vacations at five-star resorts in such lush locales as Hawaii, Cancun and the Cayman Islands for the low, low price of just $149 per person.

For that bargain-basement price you’re also promised all meals, drinks and even activities such as snorkeling and windsurfing, at no extra charge.

If that’s not enough to catch your eye, you’re even offered the option of tacking on a bonus trip to Orlando, Florida, or Las Vegas, and if you rush to the phone, you’ll also land steep discounts on airfare to your tropical paradise.

If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is warning consumers to beware of the vacation scam after receiving a flood of complaints.

“Consumers should always be cautious when receiving unsolicited phone calls or emails saying that they’ve won a ‘special promotion’ or ‘free luxury vacation.’” — Adam H. Putnam, commissioner, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The department shared a couple of the fraudulent faxes. One bears the logo of the popular online travel website Travelocity, while the other bears the Orbitz logo, in an attempt to make the offers look legitimate. But if you pull out your credit card to pay for these enticing vacations, you’ll wind up high and dry at your destination, with no reservation in your name.

The only ones who gain are the fraudsters, who get your credit card information, and law enforcement officials believe the crooks behind these phishing scams are operating out of Florida.

It’s not the first time crooks have based their operations in Florida. In December 2015, Delta Air Lines filed a federal lawsuit against an Orlando company (which now appears to be out of business), alleging the company had illegally used Delta’s name in a fake promotion offering huge discounts on travel.

Neither is it the first time travel websites have been used as an enticement for vacationers to share their financial information. In summer 2015, Expedia and other travel sites sent out a warning to some consumers that a crook had obtained access to their personal and travel booking information. With that information in hand, the fraudster was emailing or texting consumers, trying to get their payment information.

Even if it’s a company you frequently do businesses with, you need to remain vigilant when it comes to providing your credit card information.

Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warns consumers to be cautious, especially if you receive a fax, email or robocall promising incredible vacation packages.

It offers these tips to help you protect yourself:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t give out credit card or checking account numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call and are sure the company is legitimate.
  • Be sure to understand any contracts you sign, and if you’re in doubt, don’t sign.
  • Go directly to the travel website and use the information found there to contact the company’s customer service department to verify that the promotion is real.

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