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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel offer Wisconsinites tips to avoid being scammed.
MADISON — The beginning of the summer vacation season is a good time for a reminder about travel and timeshare-related scams that can cost consumers thousands of dollars. The Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are joining the Federal Trade Commission and other state attorneys general offices in a nationwide effort to educate consumers about how to avoid travel and timeshare scams.
Most Wisconsin households have probably received solicitations promising free trips, or great deals on travel. In some instances, the contact is made through robocalls or text messages. Often the sales pitch conveys the impression that the consumer must act quickly to take advantage of a great opportunity. Such come-ons are often used by companies engaged in fraudulent or otherwise illegal activity.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen stated, “Every year numerous Wisconsin citizens fall prey to fraudulent travel and timeshare schemes. I encourage consumers to exercise caution in responding to travel-related offers, and to do their homework in checking out companies before they commit to spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on what may turn out to be a scam. My office takes travel-related fraud seriously, and will continue to vigorously prosecute unscrupulous companies that rip off Wisconsin consumers through bogus travel-related schemes.”
“The old adage is certainly true: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” added DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel. “If an offer sounds unbelievably good, look into it thoroughly to make sure you’re not being scammed. If you think it’s not legitimate, you can file a complaint with DATCP’s Consumer Protection Bureau.”
Despite often costing thousands of dollars, travel club memberships generate many complaints about limited destinations, unavailable travel dates, or exaggerated discounts that club members are unable to obtain. The Department of Justice is currently handling two travel club cases involving allegations of violations of the State’s prize notice, direct marketing and fraudulent misrepresentation laws. The cases are State v. Going Places Travel Corporation, et al., Outagamie County Case Nos. 2010-CX-1 through 1I, and State v. Grand Vacation Club, Inc. et al., Waukesha County Case Nos. 2012-CX-1 through 1C.
The following tips can help consumers spot potentially fraudulent travel offers:
Another major source of consumer complaints are timeshare resellers -- companies that promise to find a buyer for a timeshare or acquire it themselves, usually for substantial fees. A common complaint is that the company takes the money, never finds a buyer, and won’t refund the fee. Here are some tips to avoid being scammed by fraudulent timeshare resellers:
For more, read Timeshares and Vacation Plans at ftc.gov/travel.
If you think you may have been the victim of either a travel or timeshare resale scam, report it to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 or filing a complaint at: http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Consumer_Complaints/index.aspx.