Holidaymakers targeted by bogus holiday clubs

28 May 2008

Holidaymakers heading to Spain have been warned not to fall victim to bogus holiday club scams that cost Brits millions of pounds each year.

The summer is the peak time for sham holiday clubs to target consumers, with the average victim losing over £3,000. This type of scam normally involves scratchcards offering free holiday prizes, which are handed out by touts in resorts such as Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella on the Costa del Sol, and in the Canary Islands.

To collect their prize, people are forced to spend thousands of pounds attending presentations and are even persuaded into signing contracts for 'exclusive' holiday clubs. Despite being promised once in a lifetime holiday opportunities, victims find they have paid through the nose for little more than access to an online or telephone booking service.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is highlighting the issue of bogus holiday club scams by handing out thousands of fake holiday club scratchcards at Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Newcastle airports. It says thousands of people fall victim to these scams each year, with those aged between 34 and 64 most likely to be hit.

The OFT's scratchcards ask 'have you won a luxury holiday?' but the prize turns out to be “a trip to a lengthy sales presentation and a chance to pay thousands of pounds for membership to a bogus holiday club.”

How to avoid the scammers

If you are approached by a scratchcard tout or asked to go along to a presentation about holiday clubs, then the advice is to think before you jump.

The OFT recommends you ask touts three simple questions:

1. Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure?

2. Is everything you are promised in the presentation in the contract?

3. Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'no', then you should walk away.

Mike Haley, head of consumer protection at the OFT, says: "Every year thousands of holidays to Spain are ruined when holidaymakers fall for the high-pressure selling techniques of bogus holiday clubs. When they return home they realise they have paid thousands of pounds for near worthless contracts.”

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