Is this a scam? A vacation package never received

the-oceanThe offer looked like an incredible bargain. For just $1,749, Judy Citko and her fiancé could fly from California to Florida and enjoy a three-day Caribbean “cruise and stay” package.

But that’s not all. The price covered three adults and six children – a total of nine travelers.

The catch: Citko had to pay for it with a wire transfer from her bank. No credit cards accepted.

No surprise that the tickets never came and that the vacation didn’t happen. (What gave it away? The wiring money or the too-good-to-be-true price?)

Now Citko wants me to help her get a refund. I’m not even sure if I can track down the company she was doing business with, but I’m willing to try.

But should I?

Let me hand the mike over to Citko for a few details. The offer arrived via fax at her fiancé’s workplace. Yes, fax. It’s still an effective way to send out scammy unsolicited advertisements, and people still fall for them.

We were told that the “cruise and stay” package — which included a flight to Florida, a boat ride to an island in the Bahamas, and a three-night hotel stay in the Bahamas — was available for adults and children alike.

When I asked how this company was able to make travel available at such reasonable prices, I was told that this company resold travel that was purchased by large corporations but unused by these corporations and that this company made this travel available at low cost to government employees.

The company, which goes by the generic name of World Wide America Travel, insisted that her fiancé pay the $1,380 directly through a bank transfer. It managed to deduct the money from his account after he sent it a canceled check.

But that wasn’t all. A few days later, she received a package from a business with an even more generic name: The Travel Company.

The Travel Company told me that we needed to pay an activation fee ($49 per person) and booking fee ($19 per person). They also offered to expedite the booking process for an additional one-time fee ($29).

Because of our scheduling limitations, I paid the expedite fee. The total amount of $369 was taken directly out of my bank account.

Then she waited for the promised plane tickets. They never arrived.

When I asked how we were supposed to book our flights, the travel company representative acknowledged that they were responsible for providing us with flight vouchers and that they had failed to do so.

The Travel Company representative promised that the flight vouchers would be put in the mail to us the very next business day. To this date, however, we have not received the flight vouchers.

No vouchers, no vacation. Is this a scam? Do the math. This poor consumer just wired $1,749 to a generic company and received nothing.

There’s a dark layer of the travel industry inhabited by travel agency card-mills, travel clubs and non-existent vacation packages that will take your money and then disappear. They move from state to state, changing their names at predictable intervals. It looks as if Citko has fallen for one of these fraudulent offers.

I can try to pursue these characters, but I’m wondering if this isn’t the kind of thing the Citkos should ask law enforcement, their bank and the Federal Trade Commission to handle. I’ve never successfully retrieved any money from one of these operations, but I’m not opposed to trying.

Actually, I would welcome it.

Should I mediate Judy Citko's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Carver Clark Farrow

    This is a matter for law enforcement. It’s like trying to mediate with the criminal who breaks into your house and steals your money. No, you call the police.

  • EdB

    I’m sorry, but I can’t find any sympathy for these people. They are just lucky these criminals didn’t empty out their bank account and disappeared. Don’t waste your time with this one. Let them try to take it to the police, but I doubt they are going to do too much about it.

  • backprop

    Early in the morning in the U.S., the vote is 87% against mediation. I’m curious how this one shapes up throughout the day. Previous cases that I thought were clear-cut tended to even out by late afternoon.

    And for the record, I’m against mediating “wire transfer” cases. I didn’t know intelligent people could still fall for that in the 21st century.

    This is really just a Nigerian 419 scam with a vacation for the prize instead of a treasure chest.

  • technomage1

    A quick google search revealed massive numbers of complaints about this company on various websites, including a f rating by the better business bureau. Why on earth didn’t the consumer do any research about the company prior to giving them her bank account info?

    In any event, this is a criminal matter, not a consumer advocate one. You can only advocate with legit businesses, criminal ones or frauds aren’t going to care one way or another about you.

  • Scott

    I’d agree as well that this doesn’t seem to be quite the situation where talking to the manager (or whomever) will do anything; I’d suggest attempting to pursue through law enforcement. Admittedly, though, I’d be shocked if any money was recovered in this case.

  • sirwired

    The bank needs to be involved immediately. The longer she waits, the less chance she has to recover her money as her rights expire.

    Luckily for her, it sounds as if this was done via EFT Debit, not “wire transfer.” An wire transfer cannot be reversed under any circumstances after a few hours, and cannot be kicked off with nothing more than a canceled check, unless she’s a customer of the world’s least secure bank. An EFT Debit is subject to at least some fraud protections. A quick Googling shows you have 60 days from the date of your bank statement to report an erroneous or fradulent transfer.

    And, in any case, unlike, say, Western Union, there is a real bank account on the other end. (Which also means the police and FTC may be able to make some headway.)

  • john4868

    This is clearly a law enforcement issue. I see little to mediate here. It doesn’t appear that the company ever had any intent of producing the trip.

  • MarkieA

    Perhaps 10-15 years ago I would have had sympathy for these folks. But these scams have been going on for so long and are so well reported, I just can’t find an ounce of compassion for them.

  • Alan Gore

    Yes, the “wire money” requirement s the tipoff that this is a scam. Mediation would be hopeless.

    The use of fax to market schemes like this is an interesting sidebar to the story. Businesses have to maintain this annoying, trouble-plagued technology because a faxed signature has legal validity, while a PGP-encrypted email signature, though less forgeable, does not. So there is a subliminal tendency to regard a faxed document as being trustworthy. It’s irrational, but as this case shows, it works.

  • TonyA_says

    Since it involved using the mail or wirline (telephone and fax), it may be mail fraud, and the US Postal Inspection Service can get involved. Also since it is likely interstate, then a call to the FBI would be helpful.

  • TonyA_says

    Not everbody hears and learns from other peoples misfortunes.
    There is always going to be a sucker for a deal too good to be true.
    No telling if this money is all they have.

  • LePin

    Yes you should help her. Yes, we are all sophisticated travelers and internet surfers and none of us would fall for this. But people fall for scams all the time and should get assistance from ombudsmen like you.

  • EdB

    I didn’t see where anything actually came through the mail so I don’t see where it would be mail fraud. It would be wire fraud yes, but not mail fraud at this point.

  • TiaMa

    We get these things on our fax machines from time to time – many times addressed from “Human Resources.” We have a good laugh at the “great deal” (inevitably we receive them in the dead of winter to exotic warm locales) and throw them in the bin.

    I agree with the others – there is nothing to mediate and should be directed to their bank and law enforcement. Definitely a case of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

  • TonyA_says

    You might be right it is just wire fraud but I think it is the same office handling it. The postal inspector. Pls correct me if I am wrong.

  • EdB

    I believe it is the FBI that deals with wire fraud while the US Postal inspector deals with mail. Each type of fraud is defined by different sections of US code.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I really hate being crabby about these kinds of cases, but I’m always astounded that 1) obvious, fairly well publicized scam gets perpetrated; 2) victim goes to consumer advocate and says “I never heard about this scam”. How the heck did the victim know to go to the consumer advocate?

    There’s a local news channel consumer troubleshooter where I live. The channel regularly broadcasts consumer tips and exposés and does those stories about how this person fell victim to scam A or to scam B. Then another person comes along a month later and says he/she fell victim to scam A or to scam B, but he/she *always* watches this troubleshooter on tv. That disconnect always drives me nuts.

    I probably have a couple of ounces of compassion for these folks, but not enough to vote “Yes” for Chris to mediate an obvious scam.

  • BillCCC

    I voted yes as long as you can find a company to deal with. Do not spend too much on this problem. The family should contact the police since this appears to be a case of fraud or even outright thievery. Since the case would appear to cross state lines can the FBI get involved?

    There’s no need to say it again when it comes to unsolicited offers, especially through a fax machine!

  • naoma

    Never, never buy into this. Always a SCAM and always has been. No free ride. You get what you pay for, etc. etc.

  • Helio

    Sorry, I didn’t understand one thing… The fiancee sent a canceled check and the company was able to cash it?!?

    I’d like to understand (1) why did he send a canceled check (was he intending to be the smart one?) and (2) why did the bank pay a canceled check?

    There are few holes in the story…

  • Don Filiault

    You can only do so much to protect naive consumers. After that, they’re on their own. A Red Flag couldn’t be more obvious on this deal.

  • Helio

    How to loose your money 101: do not check the name and/or references of the company which you are wiling to send money.

    Google search:

    The first 7 articles are complains that this company is a Scam!

  • KarlaKatz

    As the OP stated, her fiance mailed them a blank/canceled check; that’s all it takes for the case to become a Federal case as Mail Fraud.

  • EdB

    They didn’t cash the canceled check, they just used the account and routing number off of it to do a bank draft from the account. The scammers could have drained the account if they wanted to.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The routing number and bank account number from the check are used for EFTs. I don’t know if you have had the experience where you present a check to a company and they don’t actually run the check, but they run it as an EFT and hand you back the check. My mother pays *everything* by check and this happens to her at quite a few retailers and with a few charities. The check has some cancelling marks across the face, so Mom can’t re-use the check, but the bank statement shows it as an immediate debit to the account. (Makes reconciliation trickier, too!)

    If you pay any bills online, you may have had the experience where you’ve entered your routing and account numbers. Same thing, except there’s no check involved, but *you* have full knowledge of where your money’s going. I’ve paid tuition and property, vehicle and income taxes in this manner.

  • LonnieC

    I’d suggest that they close their current account and open a new bank account as well. Now that the scammers have a direct line into their current one….

  • $23671237

    “this company made this travel available at low cost to government employees.”
    …at low cost to government employees.
    …government employees.
    Mrs. Citko is a government employee? They walk among us; they breed; they get hired to run the government! After all the FTC and other gubbamint entity warnings about this type of scam, a government employee falls for it?! Are you kidding me?
    Chris, by all means help the family if you can, and I hope law enforcement steps in and strings these scammers up by the you-know-what. Any kind of junk like this that comes in the snail mail or email goes directly into the mechanical or electronic shredder in my house.

  • emanon256

    I wish there was a way to mediate it, but I don’t think their is. I think Citko should contact her bank and tell her it was fraudulent transaction, and to support her claim, she should file a police report. She may or may not get it back, but at least it might possible help build a case against these scammers.

    Also, Citko violated a few of my main rules of doing business. Never do business with someone who contacts you when you did not request they contact you. I will only do business with people where I initiated the contact. I am surprised anyone would respond to a fax advertisement. Also, never wire money unless its someone you know, and or have done business with previously. I have wired money for payments, but not to an unknown person, only to legitimate companies like my mortgage lender (Though I could say many of the legitimate Mortgage Lenders are still pretty shady), or to an escrow account that I set up for a car sale out of state.

  • EdB

    The story only says he sent it, but not how. He could have faxed a copy of a canceled check.

  • emanon256

    HAHA Its so true. We have a local trouble shooter here too, well we HAD a local troubleshooter, more in a minute, and the people he interviews who fell for the scam always say they watch him religiously.

    The best part, is when The Troubleshooter, got arrested for scamming people!!!

  • emanon256

    I used to implement this technology into quite a few clients Point of Sale systems. Its called POP ACH (Point of Purchase Automated Clearing House). Its amazing! Depending on the merchant service they use, It scans the check and reads the MICR, the POS terminal handles the transaction amount, and it pools a database of know check bouncers and you set a threshold, for example, don’t accept a check from someone who has bounced 3 checks or more in 6 months. If they fall under the threshold, it prints canceled (or something similar) on the check, does a real time encumbrance on their bank account, and pulls the ACH overnight. The best part, is if someone wrote multiple checks that day, and over drew their account, the POP ACH transactions get first priority, so the other checks will bounce, even if they were written first. Then you hand the check back, and save on courier fees! Also, if it comes back as NSF, it automatically retries a certain number of times before reporting it as a returned transaction, so if someone floats their check, you often still get the payment, where you woudl get an NSF return with a paper check.

    The drawback is it doesn’t work with corporate checks were they use ABA forwarding, or brokerage checks where they use account aliasing. Those always get returned. So there is an even better option called Remote Image Capture, where the machine scans a full image of the check, detects if it can use POP ACH, and if not, it presents a full image of the check front and back to the issuing bank, and is then handled as a paper check by the bank. Again, no courier, and the bank often has the check within 24 hours, no longer waiting for it to go through the federal reserve system.

    Wow do I miss that job, that was fun stuff!!

  • Steven Scholnick

    @twitter-18027975:disqus is absolutely right. It is a law enforcement issue,.

  • Jeff Kolker

    When one sees “wire transfer” run way…and run fast. At least that’s what I do.

  • Dutchess

    A fool and their money. Who in their right mind thinks they’re going to fly 8 people across country for under two grand and get a cruise for them as well????

    I feel bad they got sucked in but giving your checking account number out (via canceled check) I’m surprised that more money hasn’t gone missing. If I were them I would cancel that account IMMEDIATELY and open a new one or they leave themselves open to more fraud.

    Don’t waste your time mediating with an obvious scam. They don’t need a travel ombudsman they the police.

  • KaraJones

    I’m surprised at the number of people on here who have said “I have no compassion for these people.” Why? Just because WE know enough not to do this, and because they fell for a scam, that makes them DESERVE what happened to them? We were blessed with brains so, there but for fortune go you and I. We are supposed to help those who aren’t as fortunate.

    I don’t believe that “mediating” will do much because the “company” are thieves. It’s worth a shot only insofar as they may be afraid of the publicity from someone like Chris so there is a very remote chance that it could help (albeit unlikely). However, I do think that Chris can be very helpful in getting the OP the information they need to pursue it in the right direction, i.e., names, addresses, phone numbers, emails of whom to contact (FBI, FTC, etc.)

  • m11_9

    Clearly a scam, no one here would have fallen for it. But you can’t save everybody from themselves, I vote no.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Once again people, NEVER EVER USE A BANK TRANSFER. I actually dropped one of “Conde Nast’s Best Agents” because she insisted on a bank transfer. I also complained to CNT about that because bank transfer is the first smell of a scam. She is no longer listed as a “Belize Expert.”

    I can’t feel sorry for this person. But maybe I’ll send her an email telling her I’m a Nigerian prince and I need $5000 for taxes after which I will split my fortune with her…

    Or not. Cuz I’m not evil to the core. Just surface snarky!

  • Josh S

    This. The Letter Writer needs to get authorities (the kind with guns and handcuffs, not just newspaper columns, sorry Chris) involved ASAP. This is a crime that crosses state lines, making it Federal. Not to mention bank transfers, which run afoul of a bunch of other big bad government entities.

    Get the bank involved, and the FCC, and whoever else you can get in touch with. And do it ASAP.

    They have the power to put these scammers in jail and (hopefully) recover LWs money. Sadly, Chris does not, since the scammers don’t really care what gets written about the previous fake business entity they used to scam people…

  • Frank Windows

    It will be interesting to see what happens, but they should be calling the cops, not Chris.

  • bodega3

    Before I even read the article, just by seeing the title of it, the first thing that came to my mind was, from what state is the company that is offering this located?

    Chris, you would do a huge service to your readers if you would do an article on the Seller of Travel Laws that exist in the USA. Many states have them and they are for the consumers protection.

  • Dane Carpenter

    Watch out for the Gypsies!

  • Rebecca

    I would suggest contacting the US Postal Inspector. Others have suggested the FBI, but from my experience, the postal inspector is MUCH more likely to help/be interested in pursuing. Also, go to the ftc website and file a complaint there.

  • Rebecca

    She states they “sent her a package.” Tony is correct, thats the postal inspector.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    $1,749 for airfare and a 3-day cruise and stay package for 9 people…that works out to just under $65 per day, per person. Wow, who’d ever have guessed that wasn’t legit?

  • bodega3

    I forgot to add, that since the OP said they would be flying from CA and if they are CA citizens, then they should contact the California State Attorney General’s office. CA has a Seller of Travel Law and ALL seller’s of travel are suppose to be registered with the State of CA. Gov Jerry Brown has been very good with going after companies that screw with CA citizens!
    FYI to Chris’ readers, if you live in the State of CA and are going to be purchasing travel arrangement from an agent/agency, you can go onto the State Attorney General website and look up the agent/agency to see if they are registered with the Seller of Travel program and if they are current. ALL advertisement, including websites, are suppose to have the CST# showing. I often do not see it but I have found those companies registered. If you book through a registered company and you don’t get what you paid for, like this OP, there is a restituation fund that will pay you back your lost funds.

  • Bill___A

    It seems to be a variation of the Nigerian 419 scam. They are undoubtedly criminals, but will be difficult to find. As to the people who lost the money, the saying “a fool and his money are soon parted” comes to mind.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I think that this situation will be difficult to mediate. I think that the OP will be better off to contact their bank, the Post Office (if they received the package from The Travel Company via USPS), law enforcement, their local TV troubleshooter, etc.

    Never pay ‘cash’ (i.e. cash, debit card, check or bank wire) since you lose a recourse if there is an issue. When a merchant doesn’t accept credit cards, my red flags tell me 1) they could be a new company and there is a risk that they might go out of business; 2) they could be too risky for a merchant bank to issue them a merchant account (to accept credit cards); 3) a possible scam; 4) possible poor service…without the ability to challenge the transaction, there is less motivation for them to resolve the issue; or etc. There are legitimate, ethical businesses that do not accept credit cards but they are typical brick and mortar businesses.

    Do research like running a Google search, contacting the BBB, etc. Do a Google map of their address (if it is a street address) to see where they are located. A possible red flag if it is a residence especially if it is an apartment (i.e. a month to month lease). If it is a house, check the real estate records to see who owns it and compare that information to the business. If it is a storefront, find out who owns the building and contact the management company. Again, there are legitimate, ethical businesses that operate from houses and apartments.

    I like to deal with companies that are “incorporated” (i.e. Inc., LLC, LTD, etc.) since the principals needs to file paperwork with the state; therefore, the state knows who are the principal(s). I am not saying that businesses that are not an INC., LLC, etc. are illegitimate, unethical, etc. OR that every business that is an INC, LLC, etc. is legitimate, ethical, etc.

  • JenniferFinger

    I think this is something you need to pass on to law enforcement agencies. I really don’t see how you can get the money back using consumer advocate methods. These (expletives omitted by me) stole her money, so they’re not going to listen to any kind of “persuasion” to give it back.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    According to a post on the Ripeoff Report website, one of the companies is located in Glendale, CA.

  • bodega3

    That old saying is still alive:
    A fool and their money are soon parted

  • Emanuel Levy

    I voted yes and I feel you should help me with my problem. I’ve emailed you about it but never received a reply.

    I purchased a travel voucher from NextStageTravel through when I went to redeem it the voucher that sent me it is for a different offer. I emailed kgbdeals and they told me to email NextStageTravel. I have not heard anything from NextStageTravel and would like your assistance.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I wouldn’t mediate this at all. The OP and her family didn’t do their due diligence, got excited at getting something for nothing, gave an unknown entity complete access to their bank account (and, let’s just say it, that was probably the most foolish part of it) and got stuck for nearly $1,800. IMHO, they got what they deserved for their poor judgment. These are the consequences of the choices you make.

  • sirwired

    Alas, the Feds are unlikely to get involved based on a single consumer complaint. The threshold for the feds to actually do anything other than file the complaint in a database is much higher than the amounts involved here. (I think it starts at $15k or so…)

    The FCC has no enforcement powers for wire fraud, and the FTC rarely involves the authorities; their preferred modus operandi for scams like this is to perform an asset seizure of whatever funds haven’t been shipped off-shore and order the perps to Go Forth and Sin No More. (This is about as effective as you’d expect. The recidivism rates for FTC targets is rather high.)

  • NH

    This would be a waist of your time. She should go to police or FBI.

  • Randy Busch

    Another person who ‘didn’t’ believe in the adage ‘If it’s too good to be true…’. More then likely it’ll just be a waste of time trying to get her money back. But if you think you can accomplish something then Good Luck to you.

  • cjr001

    How many red flags does it to take to identify an obvious scam?

  • cjr001

    This person could find Christopher, but couldn’t be bothered to Google what is an obvious scam.

    No, no compassion in this case.

  • Asiansm Dan

    A travel agent ask a canceled check? First time to hear that in my life in travel industries and she did it. And her fiancé don’t object or ask question. Feel sorry for her but hard to believe their actions.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its not a lack of compassion but rather that there are better, more effective means of dealing with the situation; i.e. mediation is not a proper vehicle to resolve fraudulent activity.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why not? They were duped by criminals. Not everyone is a sophisticated travelers. The reality is that these scams work or no one would do them.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    No one deserves to be the victim of a crime.

  • Londoner1936

    What is the warning you need when encountering these scams? Never,never, never wire money … never. That is a clue, a big one, so take notice! And yes, it is a matter for the police, the DA, and good luck with that …

  • Londoner1936

    And that too is really smart suggestion; take notice everyone.

  • Helio

    Thanks for the explanation. The things work differently in my country, and I apologize for making wrongly assumptions. Here in Brazil we cannot convert a check in a EFT, you must deposit the check in the bank in order to receive the money.

    The average Brazilian uses less than 6 checks per year (last year I used only two ;-) . The vast majority use credit cards or debit cards attached to a bank account. Less than 2% of shop purchases are paid with check in Brazil.

  • Nanci Jean

    This should be turned over to the FTC, FBI and whoever it is who handles bank fraud. There is no question that this was an enticing scam but good lord! With the amount of info at your fingertips these days, how can a young couple fall for something like this? I am trying so hard to find a scintilla of empathy with this couple but I just keep wondering if they can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yeah, that is a pretty rude comment but giving these people access to your bank account (I sure hope someone led them by the hand to their bank manager to make sure their accounts are safe from the predators) which is why the scamsters wanted a bank transfer rather than a much safer credit card. The best way you can help this couple is to find a course on personal finances and scam recognition/avoidance.

  • KaraJones

    OK, so you feel that if someone made a dopey mistake, screw ’em, they’re on their own. You must be a very important and perfect person. I’m duly impressed.

  • KaraJones

    Carver, yeah, that’s pretty much what I said – that Chris could be helpful in steering them in the right direction, rather than mediation being worthwhile.

    And it IS, indeed, for many people here, a lack of compassion. I used that word because so many people actually stated in their comments “I have no compassion…”. In fact, see the other reply right after yours here. cjr said “no compassion”.

    It must be lucky for those people that they never make stupid mistakes..because their feeling is that if someone makes a stupid mistake, no one should help them.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    If she reads this column at all, one thing that will be learned if ‘something that has to be too good, ‘too often is too good to be true.

  • TonyA_says

    I cannot understand that reaction, too. I thought a victim is a victim.

    They might not be “sophisticated” on travel matters and pricing and that is why they became victims. At least, any victim deserves some sympathy.

    By the way, I googled her name and the only person by that name, Judy Citko, is an Executive Director, Coalition for Compassionate Care of California.
    Hmm… ain’t it weird that some folks here have a hard time being compassionate to someone who dedicates her life to providing compassion to the elderly?

  • bodega3

    I feel sorry for people who go for ‘a deal’ and get screwed. But at what point do you not want to just shake them? How many times, here on this site alone, has it been said not to wire money, use a credit card as it is your best defense when a problem comes up in a purchase and if the price is too good to be true, walk away? These ‘travel certificates’ are not and have never been a good deal. But if it is advertised by fax it must be a great right? Sounds stupid even typing it! If the OP is the one I saw on line, she has computer skills and could have and should have done some research before this transaction took place.

  • KaraJones

    Tony, It’s sooo interesting that you found that and posted it. Before I finished my post, I was about to say, “You don’t know who the person is that you’re saying doesn’t deserve compassion. Maybe it’s someone who dedicates their lives to helping others but they simply aren’t street smart.” But I decided to keep my post shorter and didn’t say it. But you did. And how ironic that she is, indeed, someone who devotes her life to caring for others. Checkmate! : )

  • KaraJones

    Yes, and WE (us here on this site) all know better. But everyone does something stupid occasionally. So what? What’s the harm in giving someone some help? No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. We all know to lock our doors when we go out. What if we’re having a bad day and we forget to lock our door and our house gets robbed. Did we deserve it? Should no one help us?

  • bodega3

    Your insurance company might not help you. Some companies won’t cover claims when you leave a door unlocked, at your home, in your car or your place of business. I am not against giving assistance, and if you read any of my earlier posts, I told you about the Seller of Travel Law. I provide information and help (can’t tell you how many have called the agency for help on mistakes they made as a DIY’er), but at the same time, I can shake my head at the OP’s foolishness of wiring money to an unknown company/person.

  • KaraJones

    Yes, of course. And we are also allowed (if we know them personally) to smack them in the back of the head when we find out what they did. But that doesn’t mean we don’t also help them. Hey, – I’ll hold the door open for you without you asking me to…but if you don’t say thank you, I’ll say something obnoxious. But if you stupidly forget to tie your shoe and you trip and fall and break your nose, even if I don’t know you, I’ll be the first one there with a clean towel and your head in my lap while calling 911. And then, when I visit you in the hospital and you’re all better, I’ll laugh at you and call you a dope.
    We are not insurance companies. We are (I hope) better than they are. They are thoughtless corporations. We are (I hope) nice people.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    This wasn’t a crime as much as it was a testament to people’s unwillingness to heed the advice of sages and law enforcement alike over the years, first and foremost, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. They made SO many mistakes, I was shaking my head in disbelief.

    Had they simply thrown away the fax they got, instead of allowing greed to take over, this would have ended as quickly as it began. Were I them, I’d consider myself lucky all they got was the $1800 because they could have emptied out the bank account. This was an expensive lesson, to be sure, but it appears it was one that needed to be learned. This is something they willingly walked into. No one held a gun to their head. No one forced them to send the money under threat. All that happened was a scam artist sent them a fax. Period.

    What was the P.T. Barnum quote? There’s a sucker born every minute?

  • KaraJones

    Uh..yes…it WAS a crime.

  • cjr001

    I’ll say it again: If you can find Christopher Elliott and seek out his help then you should be be able to find out about a scam before you throw away nearly $1800.

    This isn’t a “dopey” mistake, it’s a “everybody should know better by now and you really have no excuse if you know how to use a mouse and web browser” mistake.

    Not everybody is worth Christopher’s time, nor is everybody worth our sympathy. This person isn’t worth either for multiple reasons.

  • sanibelsyl

    In addition to the questions of why the OP wired money ( a big red flag) and did not do research; is the fundamental concern that this is a crime at some level. It’s out and out theft, not just a miscommunication or misunderstanding.

  • EdB

    Yes, I did miss that. However, like the part about sending the check, it doesn’t say how. Did they fax it to them like the original offer came?

  • Guest

    A wire transfer??? Seriously, some people are idiots.

  • Cybrsk8r

    You know, she’s got an even bigger problem than the $1749.00 she’s out. The scammers have her bank account info. They can debit her account whenever they want, or sell the info to other cyber-crooks.

    Six months from now, all the money in her bank account could suddenly vanish. If she hasn’t closed that account and transferred her money to a new account, then she really is asking for it.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    There was no crime in the slightest until the OP and their family acted on it. Prior to that it was ATTEMPTED potential criminal activity. Had the OP not have set into motion the chain of events that followed, nothing at all would have happened.

    The only crime I see is people are still so gullible they fall for this stuff. The only element required for a scam to work is for someone to fall for it. Scam artists prey on the stupidity inside people. They play with their emotions and use psychological ploys to take from others. Were people not so willing to give them what they seek, an able and voluntary patsy, there would be no scams going on at all.

    I don’t doubt the police or postal service will take a report, but I DO doubt they will act on it. I had my debit card number stolen and it was used to buy night vision goggle for shipment to Moscow. I couldn’t get the police involved enough to take my name, much less worry about catching the bad guys who did it. I even talked to a Miami police officer IN the customs office at the Miami airport, where the tracking info said it was sitting, and he couldn’t be bothered to walk away from his coffee and doughnut to help me out. I eventually had the money returned, since my bank was pretty fast on the trigger, and I was taken for a great deal more than $1800.

    Seriously, does anyone actually believe anyone in a position to help with this WILL do something? Not me… The OP will never see that money again, the dollar amount is simply too small for LEOs to bother with, and even I really don’t believe they’ll ever track down who or what is really behind this obviously criminal company.

    Bottom line, yes, it’s an expensive lesson to be learned, but had the OP not been trying to get something for nothing, thereby “gaming” the system, none of this would have gotten out of the starting gate.

  • blah

    you can’t fix stupid.

  • KaraJones

    OK, but it WAS still a crime. So the OP does have the option of trying (TRYING) to get their bank to reverse the funds transfer..and MAYBE being successful (sorry, there are no italics on here, so I have to capitalize to emphasize!). Will they get recompense if they deal with the law? Probably not, like you said. But, if they pursue it through legal channels and if there already is some ongoing investigation by some legal channel, then the OP’s input MIGHT assist in putting these particular scammers to a stop – so no one else will be taken by them. Yeah, there will be more scammers to take their place, but you gotta start somewhere. Sorry to hear about what you had to go through.

  • EdB

    I doubt they will even have a chance of getting the funds back. The scammers probably emptied the destination account as soon as the payment cleared, the there are no funds to be reversed.

    And ExplorationTravMag, it was a crime even before the OP did anything. It is called Intent To Defraud. All that has to be proved for that is a person acted with intent to defraud. So if the scammers never had any intention of fulfilling the offer, it became a crime the moment they sent the fax.

  • flutiefan

    oooh, i wanna hear more of THAT story! what did the Troubleshooter do to scam others?!

  • emanon256

    He was featured on the news regularly back in the 90s, and then around 2003 or 2004 started running a website where you can find reliable companies and review them sort of like Angie’s list but free. He developed a great reputation. Also, he would personally certify each business as a trouble fee business or a bad business, and would help people find legitimate business, etc. Then he stared to get out of hand, he started making companies pay to be certified by him, and would talk badly about companies who wouldn’t pay. Then he started refusing to help consumers if they had a complaint with one of his paying business. Then he took it a step further and would let people leave bad feedback, and get the company to pay more to clean it up. Then he started his own pyramid scheme and featured it on his segment and website as the only legitimate work-from-home system that he endorses, but never admitted he owned it. Finally a reporter exposed his extortion racket and he beat the reporter up in the parking lot and got arrested. Later they also charged him with tax fraud for his pyramid scheme. He has since filed for bankruptcy and no longer has his segment or reputation. Talk about when good people go bad.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    victim goes to consumer advocate and says “I never heard about this scam”. How the heck did the victim know to go to the consumer advocate?
    After getting scammed, they probably went on the internet. Google is your friend. Its unfortunate that they didn’t do this initially

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I was imprecise. There are definitely some people who lack compassion on this site. One person even stated that they deserved what they got. I am happy for those people who have acheived such near perfection.
    What I should have said is that a vote against mediation should not be taken as a sign of lack of compassion…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would disagree. I would consider this to be the very definition of a dopey mistake. The OP was clearly unsophisticated in her transactions. However, the reality is that not everyone is sophisticated. Some people are naive, trusting, etc. and get fleeced. I fail to see how that is germane to whether they are deserving of help.
    At least for me that standard is simple. Does the OP have “clean” hands and is mediation meaningful. In this case, the OP is not guilty of any underhanded dealings, but mediation is certainly inappropriate under these circumstances because of the criminal activity.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Please explain to me how the OP is trying to game the system? That logic completely escapes me.
    As far as criminal activity is concerned, your analysis is completely wrong. Most crimes have a correllary called Attempt. The attempt to commit is a crime is itself a crime punishable by 50 percent of the base punishment. For example, fraudulent advertisements is a crime.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you read the story carefully you would understand that it almost certainly was not a wire transfer, but a bank debit of some sort.

  • R@m Chandra Dash

    Yes it is.

  • TonyA_says

    I think she said it was faxed to her fiance’s office, not hers.
    I believe she works for a non-profit entity.

  • Cruise Adventure 4 U

    If she did a wire transfer she might start with the bank trying to get the transfer reversed as fraud.

  • Cruise Adventure 4 U

    It’s these things that keep me in business providing good travel service!

  • Charles

    You have the potential to do enormous harm if you do mediate this case! Most likely nothing will come of it and you’ll waste time you could have spent on a more reasonable case. But, the second worst possible case would be if you contacted the company and they returned the money. Why would they do that? For a $1749 investment, they can get a search result by a consumer advocate where they returned the money and apologized for the mistake. You lend an immediate appearance of legitimacy to these guys.

    The absolute worst case, and what I would do if I had no morals, was one of these bottom feeders, and wanted to bilk as many people as possible, would be if they got the trip. Maybe it costs them several thousand dollars. But, then people who read about these ridiculously low prices can do a web search and, look, the Citko’s got a trip for that price. It may seem too good to be true, but it really does exist. There were some snags, but, wow, it was legit.

    I don’t think these will happen; criminals are not good at thinking ahead. After all, the mob could have run Vegas like a business and all been billionaires. But, suppose these crooks are smarter than average? They could certainly use you in this process.

  • KaraJones

    I agree

  • KaraJones

    Exactly. It was, indeed, a crime.

  • Doug S.

    For me, this is very simple. You can’t mediate a criminal fraud. This is a matter for law enforcement, not a consumer issue in the slightest.

  • KaraJones

    True, Carver. I often wonder if some of the people who comment on here would be as inconsiderate in real life, with their real names, as they are behind the veil of the internet.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Carver, you’re a big-hearted man, and I really like that about you. That very well may have been the case here – Christopher Elliott may be brand new to the OP and her fiance. The situation that really drives me nuts is the tv viewer who *always* watches the news channels troubleshooter, yet falls for the same scam that’s been featured over and over by that same troubleshooter.

  • rybashka

    Faxed spam advertising is illegal. Why would anyone want to do business with a company that, off the bat, is doing something illegal?

  • bodega3

    But the if the OP is the one found on the internet, she was a lobbyist in Sacramento. Hardly a person to be naive.

  • bodega3

    I don’t agree.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Thanks for the kind words. :)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Which part? That even sophisticated people can get scammed? Two words. Bernie Madoff.

  • Nancy Dickinson

    My comments are not analysis, but opinion. And opinions are never wrong.