February is the perfect time to vacation, with many looking for warmer temperatures in the tropics. So now is probably a good time to remind consumers of the prevalence of travel scams.
In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi has announced a settlement who is permanently shutting down a travel business that she says was cheating consumers with her sales tactics.
The agreement prohibits Map Destinations, LLC and its owners, operators, and managers from marketing travel club memberships. The company is based in St. Augustine, Florida.
No legal way to operate
After Bondi obtained a temporary injunction against Map Destinations, LLC, the court appointed a receiver, who determined that there was no way for her to operate legally.
According to Bondi, the company marketed travel club memberships to consumers, and those memberships often cost thousands of dollars. The company has promised its customers that their memberships will provide them with discounted travel and access to expert travel advice.
But Bondi says his office has received complaints from consumers who said Map Destinations and its owners have overstated the savings and the nature of the benefits. They also complained about the way memberships were marketed.
“Tourism is vital to the Florida economy and we will not tolerate anyone who uses deceptive or unfair business practices to take advantage of people trying to take vacations,” Bondi said. “This regulation will help better protect travelers, regardless of their vacation destination. “
For the next five years, the company and its owners are prohibited from selling travel club memberships in Florida. He also agreed to waive any legal claim to his assets that were allegedly seized by the state during the investigation.
Complaints are frequent
The Federal Trade Commission says so regularly receives many complaints on travel scams, most of which trick victims into believing they’ve earned free vacations. A telemarketer congratulates the victim for “winning” two tickets to a luxury cruise, but to claim her prize she must first wire several hundred dollars to cover fees and taxes.
When shopping for a vacation, the FTC suggests getting recommendations, calling to verify reservations and arrangements, and getting a copy of cancellation and refund policies.
One last tip: always pay with a credit card. If something goes wrong, you can dispute the charges and usually get your money back.