How the scam works:
You get the call you've been waiting for to break you out of your mundane, day-to-day existence. A nice woman on the other line tells you you've just won a free Florida cruise! She begins telling you about the white, sandy beaches and how the cruise ship has a casino. She almost seems more excited than you are!
After building the trip up for almost three minutes, she offhandedly mentions that you only have to pay some minor taxes and booking charges, to the tune of about $200. You figure that still sounds like a great deal, so you pay.
It’s a real deal, and you receive the plane ticket confirmation the next day. The trick is, the ticket is a companion ticket, meaning you can't take the flight unless your guest pays the full fare. You decide this still sounds advantageous, since you both fly for the price of one and you've already sunk some money in; so you and your partner again accept.
You fly to Florida and they meet you at the airport. They take you to a beautiful hotel and everything seems to be going to plan. They tell you about the departure of the cruise, which happens tomorrow. After they set you up at the hotel, they mention you have to attend a one-hour timeshare presentation tomorrow morning. You tell them that wasn’t part of the original deal, and they tell you that you won't have your return flight taken care of unless you go.
At the presentation, which is the main part of the scam, the company is very pushy and aggressive and they do things that are borderline illegal to get you to sign up to buy a time-share. This is really intense, almost threatening. Also, it ends up being a lot longer (six hours instead of one) so they can suck a few more people into buying. After the presentation, you finally get to go on the ship.
Unfortunately, it isn't the majestic wonder you were told it would be; most likely, it's more than 25 years old and smaller than a usual cruise vessel. It's also a gambling ship that features nothing other than casino tables and machines. It's just another way to suck money out of your pockets. There are a couple of ways this can shake out. Some people will have to fly to the departure city on their own dime. Others will just take your credit card number and run.
How to avoid:
If you win something, you win it. You will never have to pay to claim that prize and if someone is telling you otherwise, they're taking you for a ride. If you really are a big fan of freebies or collecting reward points, always use legitimate services such as Points.com, which is the world’s leading rewards-management portal. With them, you can convert your credit card points into flight miles on any number of top airlines, as well as cash in your points/miles for gift certificates to shop with top retailers. Alternatively, if you are about to book a cruise, rely only on reputable companies such as CruiseDirect to book your trip - they go anywhere. You can check their website HERE.
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