Travel post card makes ‘getaway’ offer tempting, but at what cost?

By Robb Hicken/BBB’s chief storyteller

The brightly colored post card features a huge jet soaring off the runway. The reverse side declares that the recipient only need call a toll-free number for a 3-day 2-night getaway with round-trip airfare provided by Southwest, Blue, United or a comparable airline. Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton would offer hotel rooms.image

In addition, anyone calling with in the next 48 hours qualified for a $50 Travelocity Hotel Cash Card.

For some residents in the Snake River Region, the post card looks a bit over the top, and they are calling BBB with concerns about the offer. The offer has arrived unexpectedly in mailboxes this Tuesday.

Upon calling, BBB was told a marketing firm in Arizona was handling the calls for this particular promotion. She identified the company promoting the sales event as Easy Getaways – Boise, a subsidiary of Easy Getaways in Garden, Fla. Apparently, the RSVP number designates which city or region where the recipient lives

She clarified that this was 90-minute presentation in which attendees were encouraged to join a travel club.

However, in order to “qualify,” she needed the name and address of the person the card was sent to.

Others, who called were asked about income, marital status and age, and given an appointed day to meet with a company representative at a hotel location in Boise.

According to BBB experiences, some bogus promoters have been known to take consumers’ money, without providing the travel or trip that was promised. Other promoters advertise rock-bottom prices, but hide certain fees until the deal is sealed. Some promise luxurious accommodations and services, but deliver far less. Still others don’t reveal that the deal includes an obligation to sit through a timeshare pitch at the destination.

Finally, some promoters guarantee consumers that they can get a full refund if they decide to cancel the trip, but fail to make good on their promise.

Consumers are encouraged to obtain the names, addresses and telephone numbers for the lodgings, airlines and cruise ships advertised in a vacation promotion.

Fraudulent travel deals can be hard to distinguish from legitimate ones. Their intent is to lure people into buying vacations that they otherwise would not consider.

BBB recommends residents get the details of the promotion in writing, including the refund and cancellation policy, before they send a check or provide credit card number information. If asked to provide a credit card or bank account number for verification or identification, the BBB says to reconsider. This information can be used to make fraudulent charges or debits to the consumer’s accounts.

If you are tempted to respond to online travel solicitations, BBB recommends you not judge the agency solely by the appearance of its website. Online travel scams are increasing in part because it is easy to disguise their identity online.

A disclaimer on the post card states that none of the companies listed are directly involved or endorse the program being offered.

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