With the explosion of Internet use across the globe, scams are on the rise in 2013. According to Fraud Watch International Internet based scams are definitely increasing – “There has been a huge increase in types of frauds that gain personal information, which is then used or sold for the purpose of identity theft.” The Better Business Bureau confirms this.
Travel Club Scams are also increasing. But they usually have common characteristics, and can be recognised.
In China more than 300 people in the last year have been coerced into buying bogus travel-club memberships, losing a total of more than HK$3.2 million. This was revealed by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Apparently this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Firms told the victims that they had won a lucky draw, and invited them to the office to claim their prizes. They then pushed the clients into buy timeshare packages, and would not allow them to leave until they signed contracts involving HK$20,000 to HK$50,000.
A similar scam has people cold called or emailed at home and told they have won something and they need to come and collect it, or being lured off the street in highly trafficked tourist areas such as Spain, Thailand, and the Gold Coast of Australia, to name a few, with the promise of winning a fairly significant prize on a scratch card. Once lured to a place they are given a very clever sales pitch and follow-up by very pleasant people – and some will end up purchasing a membership in a so called exclusive travel club or time share.
Judging by the thousands of complaints the Better Business Bureau has received over the last 3 years about Travel Clubs, the worst case scenario is that none of what was said in the sales pitch is true, or best case some of it was partially true.
Despite all this, the Better Business Bureau says there are some good travel clubs out there. But the only way to find them is by giving time and effort to research before joining – something that cannot be done at a high-pressure sales presentation.
According to a variety of sources and experts within the Travel Industry, there are five things a Travel Club must have before it’s even worth looking at –
1. Transparency and accessibility. The founders and owners of the company must be visible, and contactable. The company must have a head office somewhere, with people that can be called and spoken to. A bunch of sales reps standing around a hired conference room in a hotel is not sufficient. All this must be legitimized by a professional website.
2. They must be a legal company, registered with the appropriate governing bodies, etc. Their registration credentials must be visible and verifiable.
3. They must have their own support staff/centre, not third party support.
4. They must have direct contracts/agreements with the hotels/condos/resorts/cruise liners/etc. Third party contracts are not sufficient. This is crucial when it comes to situations where there is some problem with a booking, or a resort, or any kind of discrepancy with any aspect of a person’s membership. The Travel Club must be able to directly do something about it. They must have direct relationships with the various providers.
5. And lastly, the methods they use to promote, and add members to the club must be ethical. There shouldn’t be a hard sell, a pressure cooker sell. The product should be sufficiently value driven to stand on its own, without bells and whistles. And interested buyers must be properly informed about cool-off periods, small-print, and any additional costs(hidden costs), or ongoing costs, etc.
If a person wants to travel, even once every couple of years, a legitimate Travel Club will not only pay for itself, but when including the travel of friends and family, and over the course of all their respective lives, it will pay for itself many times over. The difficulty in 2013 is finding a legal, transparent, legitimate Travel Club that has direct relationships/agreements with all its various providers, and can consistently deliver exceptional value to its members. They do exist, despite what the naysayers claim, and they are worth the time and effort it takes to find one.
Visit http://flyingscotsmanvacation.com for more information.
Name: Morgan Barrie
Organization: Flying Scotsman Travel
Phone: 0081 11 215 5220
Address: 4 Ranui St, Waikawa, Picton, New Zealand