Economy

Consumers warned on “free” holiday telemarketing scam

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned holiday-hungry Australians to be wary of telemarketers promising “free” holidays to exotic locations such as the Caribbean, Mexico or the United States.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned holiday-hungry Australians to be wary of telemarketers promising “free” holidays to exotic locations such as the Caribbean, Mexico or the United States.

The consumer watchdog says it has received a growing number of calls from concerned consumers.

The scam usually starts when the victim picks up the phone and hears a pre-recorded voice message instructing them to dial either one or nine to claim their prize. The victim is then connected to a “travel consultant” who will then “sell” the holiday package.

Then comes the sting. To claim the prize, the victim is charged approximately $600 for taxes and other fees via credit card. As well as taking credit card details, the fake sales consultant will often ask the victim for personal information (such as date of birth) in a bid to convince the victim that the consultant is simply verifying the credit card details.

In many cases, victims have found that the holidays do not exist at all. Alternatively, the apparently “free” trips actually come with expensive conditions and fees attached. In many cases, victims are forced to attend seminars run by high-pressure sales groups before they can claim any prize.

ACCC deputy chair Peter Kell is blunt with his advice. “If consumers receive telemarketing calls promising a ‘free’ holiday, they should just hang up,” he says. “Under no circumstances should consumers provide personal information, including credit card details, to people they don’t know and trust. They risk having their identity and money stolen.”

As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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