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Consumer alert: Don’t be carried away by “the Love Boat scam”

Consumer alert: Don’t be carried away by “the Love Boat scam”

(Scams) Permanent link

CruiseA member of our staff recently received an unsolicited “ROBO” call presented as a political poll. But the political poll was a head-fake. Instead, she was “given the opportunity” for a two-day cruise to the Grand Bahamas. All she had to do was pay a government port tax of just $59 per person.  And when she asked for written information about the cruise, she was told that the company had none to send out, she had to sign up immediately and provide her credit card information to the caller.

coupleHowever, this shipwreck of a scam reached the wrong person: Assistant Attorney General Regina Cullen. Regina works in our Labor and Industries Division and in past years led many of our high profile consumer protection cases. Regina immediately thought the pitch sounded suspiciously like a case our office had against National Travel Services and Robin Leach, stretching back to 1999:

Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire and six other states filed suit today against two Florida travel companies, their owners, and “lifestyles of the rich and famous” pitchman  Robin Leach, alleging they mislead unsuspecting consumers into believing they had won or were entitled to the vacation of their dreams.

The suit alleges the defendants used Leach's “celebrity endorsement” to convince consumers they had won or were entitled to a luxury Florida vacation and cruise to the Bahamas. Consumers soon found they had won nothing except an opportunity to pay as much as $1,000 for a seven-day Florida vacation and a bonus Bahamas' cruise which was actually a one-day ferry ride and a game of “Las Vegas style” bingo.

Washington consumers received travel certificates featuring Leach's picture and the message: “Robin Leach says Pack Your Bags!” As a condition of the trip, the certificates failed to disclose that consumers would be required to attend lengthy timeshare presentations.

“A ‘free’ cruise, which isn’t really free, will send you sailing on a sea of frustration,” said Washington State Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Chief Doug Walsh. “Add the patent illegality of commercial robo-calling and misrepresentations that it’s a political poll, and you know you won’t be joining Gopher or Capt. Stubing on the Love Boat. But you might be sailing on the Titanic Scam-Liner to financial doom.”

Not a bad turn of phrase—especially for an attorney. But I digress.

Why did the cruise line pitch mask itself as a political poll? After all, it’s not as if everyday consumers sit at home waiting, with bated breath, to be interrupted by such questions.

Walsh reminds that political robo-calls are legal, but the same tactics from businesses are not.  That being said, it wasn’t really a political poll. That means it’s still illegal. Remember that I called this scam a shipwreck? Scammers, while sometimes clever, aren’t always the brightest bulbs.

The moral of the story is simple. Don’t respond to commercial robo-calls—period.

You can protect yourself from these kinds of scams by following a few simple rules:

  • Always ask for written information.
  • Never give out credit card numbers or other personal or financial information unless you personally know exactly who you are connected with.
  • Ask yourself, "Is everything legal here?" Beware if the caller is breaking any law, no matter how trivial it may seem (such as calling before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.). He or she may be breaking other laws as well.
  • If you are uncomfortable or annoyed by a caller, ask to be put on the "do not call" list. Once you request this, the company can’t call you again.

-Dan Sytman-

Posted by Public Affairs Unit at 05/08/2012 09:08:56 AM | 

I just this very day (03/21/12) received that same call; "political poll/trip to the Bahamas."
I hung up. They need to be shut down.
Posted by: Don Lee ( Email ) at 3/21/2012 3:41 PM

Thank you for all you do to keep us safe :) I am on the do not call list and lately have been receiving an alarming number of calls about putting a sign in my yard for a security system. There have also been calls for cleaning out vents to prevent dust mites. These are robo calls and when I pressed 1 and spoke to a person to tell them i am on the do not call list, they hung up on me. What can I do when I have been contacted by these companies?
Posted by: Helen Meyer ( Email ) at 3/21/2012 3:45 PM

I got a call that was similar a few days ago. It promised that, if I took a political survey, I would get a cruise to my choice of destination. I hung up on it. It was a recorded message.
Posted by: Karen Cortel ( Email ) at 3/21/2012 5:15 PM

Great post. I'd also add that scammers will also insist they are not scammers. Make them give you a phone number you can use to verify identify and check before you give them any info.
Posted by: Gwen Zierdt ( Email ) at 3/21/2012 7:02 PM

Just got the same pitch about 10 minutes ago. I got the same call about a month ago. If you do *69 after hanging up you get a recorded message from "Ann of Political Polls of America". There are lots of complaints about these robocalling scumbags on various posting sites on the net. Glad I found this report. Go get'em and nail their (&*&()* to the wall. I hate robocalls and I hate robocalling BLEEPS! And my mantra is NEVER EVER DO BUSINESS WITH ROBOCALLERS or TELEMARKETERS. If you do that, then you never get scammed. Like Nancy Reagan said "Just say NO."
Posted by: CWA ( Email ) at 4/7/2012 2:32 PM

Looked up phone # while answering questions. After the script was read, I advised the gentleman that I was looking at the Attorney General's website at that time. Seemed to throw him off a bit. Probably wasn't part of the script!
Posted by: Sherri Baker ( Email ) at 4/18/2012 10:34 AM

Been getting the same calls. Caller ID is 206-496-0951. Clearly a scam.
Posted by: R ( Email ) at 5/2/2012 1:07 PM

I just got the same one on my prepaid number that I NEVER give out, I did a quick search because it sounded too good to be true! Thank you for keeping this info posted!!!
Posted by: Kristina Hill ( Email ) at 5/4/2012 7:24 PM

Wow, thats pretty lame, I love the intro picture though, really funny
Posted by: Johnny ( Email ) at 5/12/2012 1:27 PM

Just got one today from 360 529 6981 from Olympia wash. Pretty clever to say they're a political survey to by pass the do not call list. Of course since I live in dc this is now interstate commerce too.
Posted by: John Mackinnon ( Email ) at 5/30/2012 5:18 PM

Found this through Google, as I have been following this scam.

My main question is you are a consumer protection agency, and know that this is an illegal act, why is this outfit still allowed to operate? I continue to receive phone calls, averaging once daily for the last month, from them. I really wish that some government agency would step up and enforce existing laws.
Posted by: David ( Email ) at 6/1/2012 11:10 AM

David - Part of our role as a consumer protection agency is to warn consumers so that they aren't victimized in the first place. Are you on the do not call list? Do they continue to call even after being told that you are on the list? Also, please file a complaint with our office:
Posted by: Dan Sytman, Attorney General's Office ( Email ) at 6/4/2012 3:24 PM

David - Part of our role as a consumer protection agency is to warn consumers so that they aren't victimized in the first place. Are you on the do not call list? Do they continue to call even after being told that you are on the list? Also, please file a complaint with our office:
Posted by: Dan Sytman, Attorney General's Office ( Email ) at 6/4/2012 3:25 PM

I have been receiving these so called political survey calls since April 25. & times from seven different numbers.
Posted by: Bob ( Email ) at 6/5/2012 11:43 AM

I have received 7 calls from 7 diferent phone numbers.
Posted by: Bob ( Email ) at 6/5/2012 11:46 AM

I just got this call today, for the second time (first time was a few weeks ago). I just hung up both times since it sounded fishy/too good to be true (you know that old addage). Glad I trusted my gut on this one!
Posted by: KS ( Email ) at 6/21/2012 11:29 AM

I had an abandoned call, CID said IND SUR GROUP. It wasn't the first time, but it wasn't the same numbers, because I block them afterwards.
Posted by: None Given ( Email ) at 7/12/2012 2:56 PM

I have the same question as David before me. Is the Washington state AG doing anything about this, and if not, why not? I am in Canada, and I receive two calls daily from Washington state (and occasionally Oregon) area codes running this scam. Obviously, I am not protected by my domestic legislation, which does not govern callers in the U.S. This month, Canadians are being massively targeted: these complaints are from the last two hours, as I type and there are complaints about all the multiple numbers calling me, all over that and similar sites.

If they *are* operating out of your state (and not spoofing numbers), where are you??

(Trying to post again several days after being told I had encountered an error).
Posted by: keb ( Email ) at 7/20/2012 6:29 PM

why isn't the goverments and phone companies doing there job and protecting the law abiding people. that why they receive tax payers money as wages. do your jobs goverment and phone company workers. i'm sick of these scams sick of the charges to my cell. goverment workers need to start doing there job and protecting the peoples rights.
Posted by: jody ( Email ) at 7/31/2012 8:46 AM

wow write a comment this site doesn't like and it not excepted thats the goverment for ya!!
Posted by: jody ( Email ) at 7/31/2012 8:47 AM

"ask to be put on the "do not call" list. Once you request this, the company can’t call you again."
Hah! Don't you mean can't LEGALLY call you again?
"Cardholder Services calls me all the time. Less frequently so do the 'Won a trip to the Bahamas" folks.
I'm already on the do not call list. As you noted, the businesses that break one law are likely to break others.
Posted by: David ( Email ) at 5/27/2014 10:08 PM

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