The thought of winning a free cruise is exhilarating. Imagine a travel agent calling you up in the middle of the day to inform you you’ve won a cruise line sweepstakes you didn’t even know you entered. All you need to do is enter your credit card information and social security number to reserve your prize. Sounds too good to be true, right? It is!
If you’ve received a call regarding a “free cruise” beware: This call is likely a phone scam. The caller does not intend to send your family on the vacation of your life at no cost. They are calling to steal your money or identity.
The free cruise phone scam has long been a popular tactic of phone scammers and robocallers. It has recently received growing attention following the Resort Marketing Group, Inc. class-action lawsuit. This class-action lawsuit filed against Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean alleges these legitimate organizations contracted Resort Marketing Group to place robocalls regarding a “free cruise” to consumers without prior written consent—a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit resulted in a potential reward of up to $900 per telephone number which received this robocall.
Let’s face it, the chances of you winning a free cruise from a legitimate organization are very slim. Your odds are much better off playing the lottery. Really, go buy a scratch-off ticket. We do not recommend you engage or accept free cruise offers via an unsolicited telemarketing call. But, if you believe that you may have won a free cruise make sure to follow these steps to ensure your winnings are legitimate.
Verify if this is a sweepstake you recall entering. Sweepstakes, prizes, or other contestant winnings are required by law to grant the winnings to entrants only. If you do not remember entering a lottery, contest, or sweepstakes—the offer is likely fraudulent. Check old confirmation emails, notes, or ticket stubs before engaging any further with the caller.
While on the phone, ask for the name of the travel agency, agent’s name, agent’s contact information listed on the free cruise offer. You can also ask for the offer details to be emailed to you for validation. Make sure to take down the phone number where the caller contacted you from and request a callback number.
Research the information on the travel agency, agent and any other company titles listed on the free cruise offer. Search the titles of the offer and the phone number the caller contacted you from on websites such www.800Notes.com to identify if the FCC of any other consumer has reported is a scam.
If the offer is high pressure and time restricted, it is likely not legitimate. A typical free cruise line scam artist will request you accept the offer in a short time period, and provide little information about the details of the winnings and any additional fees that may be included. A legally registered travel agency is required to answer questions regarding the details of the offer, as well as allow the recipient time to decide whether or not they’d like to accept.
Read the fine print! Free cruise offers may come with additional charges, typically for booking fees, holding reservations, taxes, or services. This information is required to be included in the details of the offer. Make sure you understand all details regarding payment type required, any additional fees you may be responsible for, and refund policies.
If you have determined the sweepstakes is legitimate and choose to book the offer, make sure to check for secure booking and reservation confirmation numbers from all vendors you will be traveling with (airline, hotel, and cruise company). The best way to prevent a free cruise scam is to call the cruise line, hotel and airline directly to confirm any payment or reservation using your confirmation numbers.
Though the steps above can help you to verify a prize-winning you suspect you may have won, the unfortunate reality is that 9.99 out of 10 of these callers will always be contacting you with the intention to steal your money, identity, and precious time.
Class action lawsuits such as Charvat v. Resort Marketing Group, Inc. help to bring attention to the dangers of phone scams, but are a drop in the bucket when compared to the rapidly growing problem. Since October 2015, the number of phone scams and robocalls has risen by nearly 13% and shows no sign of slowing down. Each month, consumers across the country receive a total of 4.5 billion robocalls.
Consumers lose tens of millions of dollars each year to scams such as the “free cruise”, “IRS”, and many others. If you do not take preventative steps to protect yourself, you can lose anywhere from a few dollars to your entire life savings to phone fraud.
The rise of scam and robocalls can simply be attributed to technology that has made it easier for nearly anyone to attempt to rob you of your money and personal information over the phone. Scammers have possessed the ability to call your phone from masked numbers since the introduction of phone spoofing, the practice of calling someone from a phone number that is not your own. Phone spoofing has allowed spammers and robocallers to become increasingly brazen in their attempts to rob you over the phone because they can place millions of calls from nearly untraceable spoofed phone numbers each day. They have even become so brave as to call some of their victims from their own phone numbers!
Another reason robocalls persist is due to the public’s common misconception about the Do Not Call List. Many believe that after receiving a suspicious or unwanted call—it is best practice to register their phone number(s) on the Do Not Call List. While this certainly will reduce the number of legal businesses from calling you, it definitely will not stop scammers.
That is not what it was designed to do. Phone scammers are already well aware that what they are doing is illegal, and therefore will never legally register to call you, nor will they abide by FCC laws.
Now that you know the dangers of phone scams such as the “free cruise”, how phone spoofing is contributing to the growing robocall epidemic, and that the Do Not Call List will only stop a small portion of your spam call problem, you probably realize that you must now take matters into your own hands.
The most effective solution to stop scam and robocalls is to ensure these scam callers never even reach your phone. Scammers can’t rob you of your money and identity via a free cruise phone scam if they cannot get you on the other end of the line.
However, this can be challenging to accomplish as it is difficult to identify the person placing millions of spoofed calls each day. Although government agencies such as the FCC are aware a technological solution to stop spoofing at the source is necessary, the fact of the matter is they just don’t have the infrastructure to support it.
Instead, they rely on the support of third-party solutions and organizations who share the passion for stopping scam calls using advanced technology to overcome many of the common spoofing techniques used by scammers. While the FCC recommends downloading a third-party spam and robocall blocker app, they cannot formally endorse specific products for any type of scam solution. However, RoboKiller won the 2015 Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back competition.
We highly recommend signing up for RoboKiller as the best solution to stop scam calls for good. Using advanced algorithms, machine learning, and audio fingerprinting, RoboKiller is able to maintain an automatically updating global block list that drastically reduces spam calls all over the world. RoboKiller even answers scam calls for you with hilarious prerecorded messages to keep scammers on the phone and waste their time and resources! RoboKiller is an easy investment to ensure your privacy and personal information is protected from annoying spam callers.