Free Vacation Scams: 3 Ways to Identify a Phony Vacation Offer

Imagine that after another long, hard day at the office, your phone rings - and you answer to hear a voice on the other line excitedly announce you've won a free vacation.

Vacation Getaway

For a moment, you imagine yourself enjoying a well-deserved break on a sunny cruise with daiquiri in hand, or on an excitement-filled Disney trip bonding with your kids. Just what you need to recharge your batteries, the offer seems too good to be true.

Trust your instincts. It is.

Free vacation phone offers always have a catch, with the ultimate goal of conning you out of money. But they often appear legitimate - so make sure you know how to spot the signs of a scam.

Look out for these tell-tale tactics

Free vacation scams typically start the same way. An automated, pre-recorded message asks you to call back to receive your prize, or to press a number to be removed from their calling list.

If you call back and speak to someone live, con artists then typically progress through one or more of the following tactics:

1. Request for upfront fees

Most commonly, you'll be asked to pay "nominal" upfront fees to be eligible to claim your free vacation - such as a travel club membership, reservation deposit, or taxes and fees. The easiest scam tactic to spot, don't expect to hear anything more about your supposed vacation after paying up hundreds of dollars.

2. Requirement to attend a live presentation

Another scam caller approach is to require you to attend a live presentation to claim your prize. A speaker will aggressively pitch a group of potential victims to buy into a vacation club or timeshare package. But the package is likely nonexistent, or will purposely have few available dates and costly hidden fees.

If you decline the scam membership and pursue the initial free vacation offer for attending the presentation, you'll find the trip is nonexistent as well - receiving fraudulent vouchers, if anything.

3. Provision of substandard vacation

In very rare instances, people who opt into a free vacation scheme do receive a trip. However if you claim it, you'll lose rather than win - sent to substandard accommodations worth less than the upfront "fees" scammers had you pay out to qualify for the trip.

What to do if you receive a phony vacation offer

It's important to know that you can't win a legitimate contest you've never entered. So if you receive a call with a free vacation offer - hang up and report the occurrence immediately to the FTC and your state's Attorney General.

Do not give out financial information to any caller requesting upfront fees to claim a prize. And do not press a number to be removed from the scammer's call list, if asked. This only confirms that your phone number works, leading to persistent call attempts.

You can also report the scammer's phone number by downloading our iPhone phone number lookup app and leaving your feedback. If you don't have an iPhone you can still search unknown phone numbers and leave your feedback with our phone number tracer available on our site.