State warns people of travel scams - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State warns people of travel scams

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii is joining in an international investigation going after unscrupulous companies that trick people into signing up for vacation clubs and they're warning people don't be the next victim.

The pitch often begins when a guy on the sidewalk hands you a flier to attend a seminar and get a free trip. You go thinking why not, only to walk away having paid fees and the promises aren't what you were expecting.

Who wouldn't want a free or deeply discounted trip to a place like Hawaii right? Well often a free trip is too good to be true and the state says deceptive travel promoters prey on consumers through unsolicited offers, telemarketing and the in person sales pitch.

"High pressure sales where you are stuck in a room and these people are pressuring you to sign documents you have not had a chance to review or think about. Those types of things you want to walk away from. Do your research," said Bruce Kim, State Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director.

The State Office of Consumer Protection is one of 28 states, eight countries and the Federal Trade Commission looking to stop what they call unscrupulous companies that have scammed people out of time and money.

"It's a widespread investigation that resulted in over 80 civil enforcement actions and close to 60 criminal indictments, this is how serious this problem is," said Kim.

The Better Business Bureau agrees people should look up companies to see if there are complaints. If the company doesn't let you review information that's another red flag. And beware because after you do sign up for travel clubs there can be so many restrictions you may never get to use what was promised.

"The consumer is going to have to jump over mountains to actually make good on the free ticket they received," said Tim Caminos, Hawaii's Better Business Bureau. "After you take away all the restrictions there may be only 4 or 5 days a year you can travel."

They say the safer option is to use a travel agent or the online travel sites that won't charge you high fees.

"You can definitely sit through a free meeting, you can get a free gift but before you make any large decisions especially when dealing with a lot of money just take your time, sleep on it, do your homework and if it's something you really want to do go ahead and do it," said Caminos.

If you do go to a meeting and sign up for a high priced package in many cases you have a three day cancellation period to change your mind.

You can check out a company online with the Better Business Bureau by clicking here.

You can also look up company complaints or file a complaint with the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs by clicking here.  You can also call 808-587-4272.

To learn more about travel scams from the Federal Trade Commission click here.

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