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There are plenty of stories about this specific scam on the internet. I'll try to provide such identification of the businesses involved as I can, the violations of regulations and fraudulent statements made, and then see if we can figure out what they're purporting to provide you for your payment.

the pitch

You get a phone call. It's a recorded message telling you that you've won a 4-day/3-night cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines "Paradise" as a prize. Your only obligation is to pay government taxes. Press 1 to claim your prize.

I spoke to Jeffrey from Carnival Cruise Lines who explained to me that I was the winner, and the whole cruise is paid for except the government tax of $93 per person. He then went on to explain all the things that weren't included, such as airfare, alcoholic beverages, etc. Also, they were doing this because the cruises were going out half-empty, and they weren't making any money from empty cabins, but that by filling those cabins, they might make money from your expenditures on the cruise.

I asked whether the taxes were for federal, state, or local taxes, and he said "no, they're for government taxes."

While the Carnival Cruise departs from Long Beach, California, my certificate can also be used from their sister cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, with departures from Canaveral or Miami in Florida, but he really hoped I would use my certificate on Carnival.

I explicitly asked Jeffrey whether I was dealing with Carnival Cruise Lines or some intermediary. He said it was Carnival, but he pointed out that Norwegian and Caribbean were marketing the same offers. I asked how the charge would appear on my credit card, he said it would show up as "Travel Service" because it was a promotion, and that's the way it was done with all promotions.

A 60 day advance notice is required for the reservations, and it's based on availability, but since the cabins had already been reserved, the dates would be available.

In addition to my credit card number and basic identifying information, Jerry also wanted my email address. He said I could either just have the confirmation sent there, or I could have all sorts of solicitations mailed to me. I should get a hardcopy via US Mail in about 6 business days.

Jeffrey had to transfer me to a verification agent to confirm that I was really authorizing the purchase. Before he did,he made a point of giving me his agent id (C8279), as though this would ensure that I would get everything I was promised.

Additionally, he provided me with a web site http://cruiseandlandpromotions.net, as well as two phone numbers: 877-862-9619, in case I didn't receive the confirmation email, and 877-264-6140 to select my dates for the cruise. He also thanked me for spending the last 20 minutes talking with him.

The verification agent was named Paula M. I asked her who she worked for, and she answered El Monte Inc., in Houston, Texas. She said they were independent of the company providing the travel service.

violations

  1. telemarketing call uses pre-recorded message
  2. claims you have won a prize, when you have not
  3. claims purpose of call is to tell you that you have won a prize, when purpose of call is to sell a product or service
  4. refuses to provide phone number or mailing address
  5. fraudulently claims to be working for Carnival Cruise Lines
  6. fraudulently claims that there are $93 in government taxes (Carnival Cruise Lines site has taxes for the 4-day cruise from Long Beachat $42 per person)

the cover story

According to personnel at various cruise lines, these "travel partners" have contracted for a certain quantity of travel inventory. The cruise agent would not comment as to whether the price was plausible or not, but he indicated that with discounts and by meeting advanced purchase requirements, the 3-night cruise could be obtained for about $200.

On top of this, there's about $42 in taxes per person. They do not break down what the tax charges are based on.

Your cruise includes an interior stateroom and meals. However, you may encounter additional charges, including but not limited to:

the afterstory

I received the "Premium Cruise Award" form several days later. This claims that the voucher is good for "a 3 or 4 day cruise for two adults during low season", rather than a "3-night 4-day cruise" without any restriction on season. According to the form, travel outside of the low season is only available upon payment of a per-person surcharge.

The form must be sent in in order to obtain a "travel request form", which may well have additional terms and conditions.

Contrary to what Jeffrey explained, the award form says that it is non-transferable.

Cruise and Land Promotions furthermore reserves the right to "substitute the components of the offered vacation and ... itinerary", which could be interpreted to mean that, instead of a 4-day cruise to Mexico and back, they could fulfill their obligation by providing you with a round-trip bus ticket to the location of their choice.

After reviewing the form, I called Cruise and Land Promotions at 866-234-4650 and spoke to Ryan, who said he was a manager. Ryan disputed my assertion that Jeffrey had claimed to be calling from Carnival Cruise Lines (Ryan says that he runs a tight ship), and reiterated statements that were purportedly made during the verification call (which of course was recorded). In any case, Ryan said that he would have the customer service call me the next business day. We'll see what happens.


Never received a callback as of 2010-07-23. Have tried calling customer service, get through or they hang up on me as part of their "attitude ploy", in which they feign offense when I indicate that I have any issues with their business practices. They will do such things as:

It seems they've had a lot of years to develop these techniques.

Here are some more fraudulent representations/causes of action:

  1. claims you can book any time, in fact, award notice indicates there is a surcharge for peak season
  2. other charges may apply, e.g. "port charges", fuel surcharges, other random charges
  3. breach of the implied duty of good faith in every contract, i.e. come up with ways from preventing you from getting the benefit of what you paid for

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