Who wouldn’t want an all-expense paid vacation? Everyone would, and travel prize scams take advantage of that.
Sophisticated investment schemes require some sort of expertise and a lot of savings. Travel prize scams, in contrast, appeal to just about everyone, regardless of financial status.
And they also require very little overhead by the scammer.
Travel prize scams may begin with an email sent randomly to you and thousands of others. Or you may see an online ad about a dream vacation being raffled off as part of a promotional campaign. A variation on the theme is an invite to participate in a consumer survey. It will probably say it’s sponsored by travel agents who want to gauge the public’s vacation preferences. Or the scammers may claim they’re representing airlines or hotel chains. So you naturally say to yourself it’s got to be legitimate. And because it appears to be legitimate you say to yourself you’ve got nothing to lose. So you answer, add your contact information and then move on to whatever else you have to do.
A few days or weeks later someone will contact you. He will introduce himself as the travel agent behind the raffle or the survey. To your surprise, he informs you that you’ve won! Maybe it’s a month-long guided tour of a lifetime through Europe. Or a trek through New Zealand’s Southern Alps, an African safari, a weekend at Disneyland, or a Caribbean cruise. Often he’ll tell you it’s free, maybe it’s heavily discounted. Either way, how can you turn it down? Well, you can’t. So you accept.
Travel Prize Scams Really Want Your Credit or Debit Card Number
But there’s always just one minor administrative detail before you’re sent your tickets. You’ll have to provide the supposed travel agent with your credit card number, maybe a government-issued ID number or passport number as well. After all, the tickets can’t be issued without them, and they don’t include travel insurance, which you’ll have to charge to your credit card. So you volunteer the information. And then, while you’re patiently waiting for the tickets to arrive, you’ve found that a huge cash withdrawal was made using your credit card to someone with your ID and passport number.
Sometimes the scammers are cynical enough to send the “winner” fake tickets, which they discover to be worthless only when they show up at the airport to board their flight.
Another version of travel prize scams comes from Australia. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warns “winners” that scammers may tell them that they first need to provide their credit card details in order to obtain their “travel vouchers.” The result is the same. In Australia, travel scams intentionally target indigenous communities, which tend to reside in isolated regions and, therefore, would be especially anxious to jump at the possibility to travel abroad and see the world.
In the United States, a common variation is a travel prize to stay at a timeshare. A timeshare is the use of a condo for a specific number of days. Typically, the scammer claims they’re at a beach or ski resort, and the time that’s available is in the winter. Of course, under those conditions, the response will surely be positive. The “winners,” of course, have to provide their credit card numbers to cover incidental expenses or verify their identities. When they show up, however, they will find there is no timeshare. In some cases the timeshare may exist but it will turn out to be a dump. If so, the “winners” will wind up paying a huge chunk of the bill anyway.
Travel scams carry another danger, apart from losing your money: identity theft. The scammers now have all the information they need to impersonate you until you realize what happened. Only then can you cancel your credit card, invalidate your passport and change your ID, a process that will take valuable time to complete. In the meanwhile, there is virtually no limit to the damage the scammers can do to compromise you and your credit history. And it may take years to expunge that from the record.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a travel prize scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.