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With spring break approaching, beware of travel deal scams

A flier from the Travel Center. (WJLA photo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. And with spring break around the corner, there are some red flags you should look for when it comes to travel deals.

It was a vacation cruise deal that seemed too good to pass up for Melissa Eller and her family.

“I was trying to do something fun and cheap for spring break,” she said.

Eller received a flier advertising a cruise deal on the fax machine at her family-owned business. The “spring liquidation sale” included round-trip airfare, provided she called that day; Eller thought it was perfect for her two sons and parents.

“That fax document is probably best used for wrapping fish,” said Ed Johnson, of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Johnson says unsolicited faxes for vacation deals are a warning that what is being offered is a hoax.

Eller called the 800 number on the flier and reached a company called the Travel Center, of Clarksburg. The deal was $750 for an eight-day Caribbean cruise for her party of five.

“It would be [a heck of a deal] if it was truthful,” Johnson said.

Eller signed up and allowed the Travel Center to draw the money from her bank account. Then, a Travel Center representative sent her to a company called Omaha Travel to book the date for the cruise, for a fee of $140.

“That’s when we kind of figured out something was amiss,” she said.

Eller says she was told she would have to make airline arrangements to fly to the ship in Florida through a company called Grand Incentives, and then go to Infinity Incentive Group to book exact accommodations on the cruise line. All of that, with port fees and taxes, totaled an additional $1,200.

What of the money Eller gave to the Travel Center?

“We really didn’t buy a cruise with our $750, we bought into a vacation club,” she said.

Eller says she called the Travel Center to cancel and get a refund, but was hung up on. She filed a complaint with the BBB, which has received scores of complaints against the Travel Center and Omaha Travel. The BBB has given both companies an F—its lowest rating, because they won’t respond to the BBB either.

7 On Your Side tried to track them down, too, going to the Clarksburg address listed as the Travel Center’s headquarters. The address turned out to be that of a UPS store, with a mailbox assigned to the Travel Center.

“Definitely scammed for my spring break vacation,” Eller said.

7 On Your Side repeatedly called and emailed the Travel Center and Omaha Travel, but did not receive a response.

Literature sent to Eller after she had paid over the phone for what she thought was a cruise states, “The Travel Center is a vacation consulting company and is not the fulfiller of these vacation packages.”

The BBB warns customers not to sign up or pay for any vacation offer like this until they receive a copy of a contract they can read.

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