Sunday, June 01, 2008

Spanish holiday club scam costs holidaymakers millions

Spanish holiday club scam costs holidaymakers millions

By Tony Bonsignore | 00:01:00 | 01 June 2008

An elaborate "holiday club" scam cruelly targeting happy holidaymakers heading for the beaches of Spain has already netted million of pounds, the Office of Fair Trading has revealed.

The scam starts with criminals handing out bogus scratchcards asking have you won a luxury holiday? to departing holidaymakers at UK airports. All the cards are in fact "winners", although the prize turns out to be nothing more than a trip to a lengthy sales presentation, according to the OFT.

The sales presentation, backed up with flashy brochures to take away, offers people the chance to spend thousands of pounds on membership of an exclusive holiday club, which in turn appears to offer access to a wide range of high quality holidays in resorts such as Benalmadena, Fuengirola and the Canary Islands. The selling techniques used are classic high pressure ones, it is reported.

However, victims of the scam soon discover that the contracts they sign are nearly worthless, the OFT says. In many cases the club offers little more than a simple internet booking service, no better than they could access on any high street.

The average loss incurred by victims of the scam is £3,000, it was revealed.

The OFT Scambuster team last week handed out thousands of similar fake scratchcards at four regional UK airports to draw attention to the problem. Staff from the European Consumer Centre were also on hand at Malaga airport, while hard-hitting ads warning of the dangers have been posted on airport walls and in inflight magazines.

Mike Haley, head of consumer protection at the OFT, said that every year thousands of holidays were ruined by the scam. He urged holidaymakers persuaded to attend such a presentation to ask three questions:

* Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure?
* Is everything you are promised in the presentation in the contract?
* Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the OFT advises to simply walk away, Haley said.

1 comment:

Geoff said...

I am interested that the Office of Fair Trading advises not signing up if the answer to any of these questions is no:

* Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure?
* Is everything you are promised in the presentation in the contract?
* Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money?

When we joined Sunterra, the answers were certainly either 'no' or 'don't know'...