Travel Prize Scams

Who Wouldn’t Want an All-Expenses Paid Vacation?
Everyone Would, and Scammers Know It.

Unlike more sophisticated investment schemes that may require some sort of expertise to understand and a lot of savings to buy into, this one appeals to just about everyone, regardless of financial status.

And it also requires very little overhead by the scammer.

It may begin with an email sent randomly to you and thousands of others whose names and addresses can be bought wholesale, 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 that you’ll be invited to participate in a consumer survey, sponsored by travel agents who want to gauge the public’s vacation preferences.  They may very well claim to be representing airlines or hotel chains, so you 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 you’re called by someone introducing himself as the travel agent behind the raffle or the survey and, to your surprise, he informs you that you’ve won!  Maybe it’s a month-long guided tour of a lifetime through Europe, maybe a trek through New Zealand’s Southern Alps, maybe an African safari, a weekend at Disneyland, or a Caribbean cruise.  Maybe it’s free, maybe it’s heavily discounted.  Either way, how can you turn it down?  Well, you can’t.  So you accept

Their Real Goal is Your Credit 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, reported by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is that when the “winners” attempt to claim the free holiday the scammers tells them that they first need to buy “travel vouchers” using, of course, credit cards.  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.

Yet another variation on the theme has been reported in the U.S. state of Virginia, where “winners” are notified that they have won a timeshare  ̶  the use of a condo for a specific number of days – typically at a beach resort, and typically in the winter when the response is almost guaranteed to be positive.  And then they’ll ask you for your credit card number.

Identity Theft

Travel scams carry another danger, apart from losing your money: identity theft.  Your identity has now been compromised.  The scammers will have all the information they need to impersonate you until you realize what has happened and cancel your credit card, have your passport invalidated and change your ID, a process that can take valuable time to complete.  In the meanwhile, there is virtually no limit to the damage the scammers may be doing to compromise you and your credit history that may take years to expunge from the record. 

If you think you’ve been the victim of a travel prize scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack