The not-so-lovely boat: Cruise scams could sink you
One of my friends and former BBB co-workers loves to take cruises. She used to work in the industry. Periodically, I get calls (sometimes from computers) offering “free” or deeply discounted cruises. Scam city! Remember, businesses somehow have to make money. Those that don’t, go away.
The Washington state Attorney General’s staff received a robo-call offering a two-day luxury cruise to the Bahamas. All they had to do was pay a government port tax of $59. No, the company couldn’t send written information. “Sign up immediately and give us your credit card number.” Uh-uh. In 1999, then-Washington AG Chris Gregoire and six other states sued two Florida travel companies and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” pitchman Robin Leach for allegedly misleading consumers into believing that they were entitled to a dream vacation. The travel certificates claimed you had won a luxury Florida vacation and a Bahamas cruise, when in fact you were required to pay as much as $1,000 for seven days in Florida and a one-day ferry ride. The certificates also failed to disclose that you were required to attend lengthy timeshare presentations.
Don’t respond to commercial robo-calls – period. And never give out credit card numbers or other personal or financial information unless you personally know whom you’re connected with.
• Always ask for written information.
• If you are uncomfortable or annoyed by a caller, ask to be put on the “do not call” list. (If they don’t honor your request, complain to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.)
• And it’s a good idea to research the company’s track record on www.bbb.org and other trusted sites.
You could also:
• Check with your State Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (or that of the state where the company is registered). Make sure they are properly licensed to do telemarketing and travel sales.
• Ask if the company offering the vacation is a third party. Some companies have been known to avoid responsibility for customer dissatisfaction via this sort of arrangement.
• Search for hidden fees or additional costs so you can calculate the true cost. A discounted cruise does you no good at all if you can’t afford the airfare or the rental car.
Holly Doering, BBB editor