Take control of your brain health with Staying Sharp! Try it today.
by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, August 16, 2010
A promise of free airfare is certainly enticing, particularly with today’s sky-high prices. But if you respond to unsolicited letters that congratulate you for qualifying for two round-trip tickets, prepare yourself for some turbulence.
The tickets may be bait to lure you to a high-pressure sales presentation by a “vacation club” whose promises of huge travel discounts and top-tier accommodations may never be kept, despite memberships that cost upward of $9,000 upfront with hard-to-cancel annual fees.
Scam Alert first exposed these clubs in 2007, but they have recently been up to their tricks again, according to the Better Business Bureau.
In Connecticut, the bureau has issued new warnings about “award letters” arriving in that state from Nicholson Barnes, a sweepstakes marketing company that the bureau has given an “F” rating. Although the letters don’t mention it, you can’t get your freebie airfare unless you attend a sales presentation by Triton Travel Group, a franchise of Outrigger Vacation Club.
Outrigger is one of three companies recently sued by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley for allegedly selling vacation club memberships that don’t deliver on promised travel discounts.
The other two companies—Massachusetts-based Only Way 2 Go Travel of Plymouth and Fantasia Travel Group of Methuen—are accused of conspiring to sell Outrigger Vacation Club memberships in a bait-and-switch scheme. Charles Caliri, president of both companies, said in a telephone interview that his companies “are not scams. In the near future, you’ll see that a lot of these accusations will be dropped.”
An Outrigger representative who would not identify herself declined to comment on the lawsuit, and responded to questions from Scam Alert by saying her company “is a third-party service provider.” No response was received to an e-mail sent to Nicholson Barnes seeking comment.
“Consumers will be disappointed if they believe they can simply claim their prizes and walk away,” Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut BBB tells Scam Alert. “They may be pressured into making a snap decision to commit thousands of dollars for a membership or other product that is not as good a deal as they believed or were led to believe.”
Sure, there are many legitimate players out there, but you should keep alert for the shady ones.
How to protect yourself
Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Get tips and resources to protect yourself from fraud and see the latest scam alerts in your state.
Members save 15% on in-store purchases of frozen yogurt, treats and apparel.
Exclusive program for members from The Hartford.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at