Is this a scam? A vacation package never received

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By Christopher Elliott

The offer looked like an incredible bargain. For just $1,749, Judy Citko and her fiancé could fly from California to Florida and enjoy a three-day Caribbean “cruise and stay” package.

But that’s not all. The price covered three adults and six children – a total of nine travelers.

The catch: Citko had to pay for it with a wire transfer from her bank. No credit cards accepted.

No surprise that the tickets never came and that the vacation didn’t happen. (What gave it away? The wiring money or the too-good-to-be-true price?)

Now Citko wants me to help her get a refund. I’m not even sure if I can track down the company she was doing business with, but I’m willing to try.

But should I?

Let me hand the mike over to Citko for a few details. The offer arrived via fax at her fiancé’s workplace. Yes, fax. It’s still an effective way to send out scammy unsolicited advertisements, and people still fall for them.

We were told that the “cruise and stay” package — which included a flight to Florida, a boat ride to an island in the Bahamas, and a three-night hotel stay in the Bahamas — was available for adults and children alike.

When I asked how this company was able to make travel available at such reasonable prices, I was told that this company resold travel that was purchased by large corporations but unused by these corporations and that this company made this travel available at low cost to government employees.

Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our employees with a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

The company, which goes by the generic name of World Wide America Travel, insisted that her fiancé pay the $1,380 directly through a bank transfer. It managed to deduct the money from his account after he sent it a canceled check.

But that wasn’t all. A few days later, she received a package from a business with an even more generic name: The Travel Company.

The Travel Company told me that we needed to pay an activation fee ($49 per person) and booking fee ($19 per person). They also offered to expedite the booking process for an additional one-time fee ($29).

Because of our scheduling limitations, I paid the expedite fee. The total amount of $369 was taken directly out of my bank account.

Then she waited for the promised plane tickets. They never arrived.

When I asked how we were supposed to book our flights, the travel company representative acknowledged that they were responsible for providing us with flight vouchers and that they had failed to do so.

The Travel Company representative promised that the flight vouchers would be put in the mail to us the very next business day. To this date, however, we have not received the flight vouchers.

Exploiting unsuspecting consumers

No vouchers, no vacation. Is this a scam? Do the math. This poor consumer just wired $1,749 to a generic company and received nothing. (Related: Five summer travel scams no one warned you about.)

There’s a dark layer of the travel industry inhabited by travel agency card-mills, travel clubs and non-existent vacation packages that will take your money and then disappear. They move from state to state, changing their names at predictable intervals. It looks as if Citko has fallen for one of these fraudulent offers. (Here’s how to win a credit card dispute.)

I can try to pursue these characters, but I’m wondering if this isn’t the kind of thing the Citkos should ask law enforcement, their bank and the Federal Trade Commission to handle. I’ve never successfully retrieved any money from one of these operations, but I’m not opposed to trying.

Actually, I would welcome it.

Should I mediate Judy Citko's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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