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Can You Recognize a Scam?

Scam invitationBack before the recession hit, we used to get offers for time share presentations pretty regularly. I personally think buying a timeshare is right up there with purchasing ocean front property in Kentucky, but to each his own. After the economy went south, I assumed those went the way of the dinosaur, but low and behold, look what we got in the mail a couple of weeks ago!

I guess it’s a good sign of economic recovery that people are getting rooked there is a market for such things again. I don’t know that these offers could be considered a scam because you generally get the prize they are offering if you do your part. However, the things they are usually selling are not generally a good use of money. Do you know how to spot a scam?

Being the curious person that I am, I called to see what this offer was about, assuming it was a timeshare presentation. The very perky operator told me that to claim my prize of two airline tickets for anywhere in the continental US,plus a two night hotel stay and a $50 Expedia gift card, all we had to do was attend a 90 minute presentation about joining a vacation club.

What Would You Do For a Prize?

Honestly, if they told me I had to sit in a porta-potty and listen to Roseanne Barr sing the national anthem for 90 minutes, I would do it if the prize was good enough. This one is actually something we will use and is probably worth $1000 or more, so I agreed to attend the show. We set out wearing our best neutral faces and were determined not to buy a bucket of water if they set us on fire.

Scam of the Day

When we arrived, we found out it wasn’t for a time share at all, but for a vacation service called My Getaways, which is a part of a club called Saver Express.  A quick search on the smartphone didn’t turn up much, which was red flag #1.

What Happens During the Presentation?

There were five other couples there, and one by one, a salesman came to escort us into a conference room. After a few minutes of mindless banter, another gentleman got up and began a 60 minute presentation  and slide show about Saver Express.


I’d never heard of Saver Express, but it sounds like a glorified travel agency. If you join, you get to call one number to book any sort of travel you can imagine, supposedly for highly discounted rates. You also got a rebate at the end of  the trip because they essentially gave their commission to the members, but there was no concrete number given for the amount of the rebate. They did show some sample itineraries that seemed like pretty decent deals, but you can’t have access to the deals unless you join, so there was no way to compare to the prices I can score on my own.

How Much?

Well, you get all this service for the low, low price of $8598 to join and then $199 a year. The membership lasted for 50 years and was guaranteed to never go up in price. An added bonus was the first two couples to join, got a $1000 travel credit added to their account! Are you salivating yet?

After the presentation, which was fairly entertaining, we got some one on one time with our salesman, Rex. I’ll admit, Rex was good. He began by telling us that he would buy back the free travel voucher we were getting that day for attending. It was valued at $1700, but he was going to give us $2000 for it. With extra $1000 for being one of the first two couples to join, we’re down to $5598 already.

Geriatric Travel Anyone?

Rex then said that we really didn’t need the 50 year membership. He’s probably right. In 50 years we’ll be 93 and 89, so our big trips will be going to the nursing home cafeteria. Good point, Rex. If we bought a 25 year membership instead, we could get the deal for $3598!

It didn’t take us very long to tell Rex we were going to pass on the deal. Just when I was wondering who on earth would shell out this much money to have someone book their travel for them, the salesman at the table in front of us stood up and congratulated Marcy and Stan on buying their membership. Oh Stan and Marcy, you should have talked with us first. I can’t help but feel like this couple was scammed.

Jedi Mind Tricks

This was a great experience in psychology.  Like the power of a Jedi mind trick, they used all the popular sales pitches including starting with a higher price to make you think you were getting a deal when it was lowered, having lots of pictures of families making memories during the slideshow, giving us a “discount” for being one of the first takers, having a limited time opportunity, and on and on.

We did get our travel voucher for attending. It seems kind of convoluted to redeem, but I am someone who can stand in line for 30 minutes to buy gift cards to get extra reward points, so I think I can handle it. If it does pan out, this was pretty easy money.

In conclusion, there was pretty much a zero chance of our buying anything, but it wasn’t the worst 90 minutes I’ve ever spent. I got a morning alone with my husband, and we went out to lunch, which we normally don’t do without the kiddo. Hopefully, the travel voucher will allow us to take a pretty cheap trip for spring break, and it will let us save our reward points for another trip at a later date. If I got another offer tomorrow, you can bet I’d be one of the first ones to sign up for the presentation, but I’ll always say no to the scam.

 Have you ever know anyone who fell for a high pressure sales pitch? Have you gotten any good bonuses for attending one of these scam deals?

You won’t need to fall for scams if you win some free cash. There are only a few days left to enter my one year blogiversary contest!

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

64 comments

  1. I’d hate to think of the profit margins they make from this – $8500 is the entire cost of a few great holidays! I would assume at most such a service could knock 10% off of the best rate you could negotiate and perhaps another 10% rebated. Thats being extremely generous, but with those numbers it would still take 14 years of $3000 holidays to break even!

    • The presentation said 20-80% off. Guess which end it probably is closer to?

    • The presentation said 20-80% off. Guess which end it probably is closer to?

      Because they book all travel venues, than of coarse on car rentals and cruises the profits are smaller. However the timeshare weeks they market is the true home run, compare the prices of a timeshare resort book online with Expedia maybe 2000 or 3000 dollars for a sleep 4 condo in a top resort area during high season and the travel clubs can get you the same resorts for around 199 to 299 per week, so yes 80% is real.

      I love you last remark, “Guess which end it probably is closer to? You have no clue and yet you choose to guess for the worst. Do you need content this bad for you blog, that you are willing to give your opinion in things you have no clue about!

      • Obviously you have some anger here, and I’m very sorry if I offended you. If you enjoy your timeshare and think it’s worth it, that’s great for you. I am only relating my experience as I saw it. If you have been a member of saver express and would like to produce a list of various prices, feel free.

  2. I really hope it works out, it still looks too good to be true, like when you have enough airmiles to book a “free” flight but taxes and fees make it more expensive than a similar flight with a low cost airline.

  3. When it comes to scams the pitches tend to be so well crafted you can lose your resolve to say no 🙂 Well, I have gotten anything from attending a scam deal presentation, would really want to know how yours pans out.

  4. My friend got a free Vegas hotel stay if he sat through some sort of travel presentation. They tried to sell him a timeshare (or some derivative of it). He sat through the presentation, as he had agreed to in exchange for the hotel stay. BUT when he said he wanted his lawyer to look over the documentation before signing they said he had to sign now and the documents couldn’t leave the room. Needless to say he didn’t sign anything!

  5. I haven’t really had the opportunity to do something like this, but I absolutely would if the timing was right. Sit through 90 minutes of BS for $1700 worth of vouchers? Sign me up! Plus I think it would be funny to watch the salesman try his best to break down my impenetrable fortress of denial. Sounds like you guys made out well.

    • I wonder if they look you over before it starts and make a play for the most vulnerable ones. I think we had our fortress mask on tight.

    • How sad are you people, You must be Obama Lovers and feel your are entitled to taking money form companies that you are ready feel this way about. This salesman may have a family to feed and you would rather mess with his or her life.
      Why not go at all, rather than waste their time and steal their money, as you readily admit its a scam. You are the scammers, I bet you even cheat on your taxes and make false insurance claims.

      • “Mark Reddick” is obviously a shill for one of the many travel scams.

        We signed up for one in May, but after getting home and reading the contract fully I discovered they guarantee absolutely NOTHING! They only state you’ll get the best available (that they can find), so a quick search on your own can get the same rates or better rates.

        So I decided on doing a little more research and found the “founder” or “partner” depending on how you read the literature and contract was already in trouble with the North Carolina Attorney General and Florida’s AG was closing in.

        After a few posts of EXACTLY what the offer was, and contacting both AG offices, I received a call from the lead salesman within hours of the posting. Yes, they are watching for these posts and doing everything they can to discredit any negative publicity.

        We came to an agreement to nullify the agreement if I would remove the post and tell the AGs we came to an agreement, so they got their contract back and I got my check back.

        In the end, the “freebie” that I was given was the same listed here – send in $75 and a list of destinations and they’ll get back in a month or so. Never bothered with it.

        And to respond to the obvious retort from “Mark”, this isn’t the first time. I actually signed up for one of these years ago – and should have remembered that experience, but, as noted, they do a very good presentation – when I was in Texas. Tried to book rooms in San Antonio for a Girl Scout trip and the rate quoted was at least 20% higher than the rate I was looking at through Travelocity at the same time that I was on the phone with them. Told them “No thanks” and made my own reservation.

        Save your money and don’t even bother to go to the presentation unless they are handing you money as you walk out – which they do at the time share we own when we go to the owner’s presentations. Otherwise we’d tell them “No thanks”, too.

  6. Crazy! I would definitely attend a sales pitch like that for free stuff but I cannot believe that anyone would buy into that “travel club!” Haven’t they ever heard of Expedia? You can just book inexpensive travel yourself!!!

  7. We just started getting things like this in the mail recently and they just go in the recycling bin normally. My Mom and stepdad, who live in Florida, get things like this all the time and will go to get whatever the free thing is. I’d consider doing it if the prize were something I wanted -though I’d probably have too much fun shooting holes in their “math”. 🙂

    • I don’t think they count on people being able to add or multiply or else everyone would realize the deal doesn’t add up. More power to basic math skills.

    • Its not about the math, its about enjoying nice vacation in private resorts that won’t let just anyone into the club, you must be a member or guest to stay at these 4 and 5 star resorts. I can show anyone at any time that it is much less money to use my timeshare benefits rather than shop online with the different providers. I can stay all over the world in awesome resorts for less than 200.00 dollars per week, not 200.00 per night.

      • “Mark”, please disclose which club you are a “member” of.

        As for “private resorts”, most if not all have units they post for public / cash, but members or owners cannot sign up for. Went through that with one of the more reputable vacation clubs and they flat out told me only a fraction of the units are available for owners and once those are filled, all you get are “nothing available” responses. The majority are “cash” units, meaning if you have the cash they’ll reserve the unit.

  8. …but was it better than listening to Roseanne Barr sing the national anthem?

    I always flush these out the second they arrive in the mail. The reason? I was in “sales” for nearly two decades, and everyone knows that the easiest people to sell are other salespeople. I’d buy in a moment for no other reason than the fact that I like Rex and hope he succeeds.

    It doesn’t sound like you received one of the high pressure sales pitches I’ve heard about from friends (the type where they take your coat and won’t give it back). That’s another reason I stay away….I’ve heard too many of the horror stories.

    • I did like Rex much better than I think I would like Roseanne. I do hope Rex succeeds, just not at taking my money. This one was not high pressure at all, unlike a time share one we did in Hawaii several years ago. I though they were going to bring out the thumb screws for that one.

    • Joe, I think you’re on to something. Mr PoP has way more sympathy for folks on commission since he’s in sales and can usually tell in about 5 minutes what their metric is. If it’s the add-on drawer liners for his brand new tool chest, he’ll buy them there to help the sales person’s numbers.

  9. I’m curious to hear how your airline tickets work out and hope you will update us. Years ago, I got “free” airline tickets through a somewhat similar deal and discovered that they were free only if you purchased specific hotel nights at around $200+ a night. Grrr.
    One suggestion: if you do attend any of these sales presentations, I’d try to subtly (or not so subtly if you aren’t easily embarrassed!) create an impression that you could barely afford the gas to drive to the presentation. Or do something similar – I liked Matt’s comment on his “fortress of denial” that he’d bring with him, that should work, too. If you do this, the salesmen should mostly leave you alone or tone it down, since they size up the prospects as they arrive and try to connect with the ones most likely and able to buy. Sort of like the reverse of getting chosen for the team in gym class. You want to be the one least desired in this case.

  10. I used to live in Orlando and, the timeshare companies would do that kind of thing all the time…”We’ll give you 3 days of Disney tickets and hotel stays if you come listen to my sales pitch”. Unfortunately, all of these things were closed to residents within 100 miles or so, so, I never got the chance to take advantage of one. If I could I would though!

  11. Funny how our parents’ words still ring true: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

  12. Haha $8K is a steal! Kidding of course. Stuff like this worries me because SOMEONE must be falling for it.

  13. “I personally think buying a timeshare is right up there with purchasing ocean front property in Kentucky, but to each his own.” LOL!!! I almost never attend anything like that where the words “all you have to do is.” I just know I could never have the patience to sit through that. One time I had this friend who attended the world-famous Landmark conference to better himself. He told me that he wanted me to come to his “graduation” because he said me was going to mention me in his speech and also wanted the support. OMG, we were herded off into groups and given the biggest and loungers sales pitch to join landmark in history. it was relentless and I was seriously pissed and should have walked out then. But they got a TON of people to sign up for this mindfuck. (pardon my French and I hope to god you didn’t go to a landmark presentation in your own life-lol) BTW I totally bitched him out later for not telling me about the 3 hour sales presentation, but since he just attended Landmark I’m sure his ego could take it. 🙂

    • I’ve actually never heard of Landmark, but it sounds really fun. We did get hooked into listening to an Amway spiel from some friends who made it seem like they were inviting us to dinner.

  14. I definitely don’t mind going to these types of presentations. Their math makes me laugh a little, but I will gladly sit in a presentation for some time in order to get a sweet deal. My wife and I did it on our anniversary trip down in Charleston. We go about $400 worth of vouchers, all of which worked well.

    We did have two couples buy into the timeshare philosophy and I know they paid around $30,000. Ouch!

  15. My ex-husband fell for one of these (before we were married of course). His prize? A his and hers watch set….nice!

    This was for a time share though and they billed him around $70 a month which later went to a collections agency.

  16. We attended a timeshare program right after college to get a cheap trip to Las Vegas that ended up not being worth it anyway. Haven’t made that mistake again. 🙂

  17. I know some couples with a timeshare and I always have to bite my tongue. They make it sound like they got the most fabulous deal. I can never tell if they just drank the kool aid or are embarrassed that they got taken so they make it sound better than it really is. 🙂 I’m not entirely sure I could have sat through a 90 minute presentation. On the flips side, your prize is pretty good and worth it if you can figure out how to redeem it. And yes, the person who waited to get her proper reward points WILL make it work.

    • I also know people who think timeshares are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Hard to say if they really thing it’s a good deal or if they are just making the best of it. I’m sure they are nice once you are on vacation, but for thousands a year, I could find a very nice place on my own.

  18. I think timeshares are generally a rip-off (and this travel discount program sounds slimy grimy gross), especially now that they end after X years. My parents bought one when I was young that my sister and I inherit and can pass down forever (and maintenance costs are low enough that for her and I it is a better deal than getting a hotel or renting VRBO style).
    It probably cost more than it was “worth”, but my mom knew having it would ensure we took a family trip every year. Now that he’s passed away I’m so glad she insisted on that because my dad worked a LOT and those trips are most of my memories of him. So if one spouse is a workaholic and won’t vacation if they aren’t committed to something it *could* be worthwhile from an emotional perspective, but even for those folks it’s probably better not to buy it in a presentation- I understand timeshares sell for next to nothing on the secondary market.

  19. I have no problem saying no, but I avoid high pressure sales too. I bought a (new) car without a salesman. I used a car broker and got the car for deal invoice! I buy insurance either using friends or online services. As far a scams go, I avoid the “too good to be true” stuff too.

  20. Ya, I’ve heard of these so called discounts and deals and it’s not worth it at all to me. SO many people get suckered in to them and are stuck essentially. I wouldn’t both to be honest.

  21. I’ve heard about these scams on the local news. You probably couldn’t find anything online is because the company has been shut down before and opens up with a new name. When I’m on vacation, I’ve been offered things for attending the presentations but I really don’t want to waste my time doing that.

    • It is a question of time vs value of prize. We would have been mowing the yard if we hadn’t gone, so it wasn’t like we missed out on anything earth shattering.

  22. I commend you for being brave enough to attend one of those things – for the sake of blogging journalism or curiosity (whichever fits best). It sounds like a smoke and mirrors distraction technique: Be distracted by the fifty year membership! Enjoy using your travel voucher here if you sign up now! Never mind that a fifty year membership is crazy – unless your six years old. Or the travel voucher that is only redeemable if you turn around three times, call at midnight on the night a full moon, and sing Buh bye Birdie backwards. Interesting article, thanks for sharing!

  23. I’ve bought. I’ve bought twice.
    First was a timeshare- we couldn’t really afford it and it wasn’t the smartest use of our money at the time, but I have no regrets. I use it for a weekend away about once or twice a year and we were able to do an exchange for our trip to England. For buying, we got a free week through an exchange and used that for our honeymoon to Disney World. Again, I’m not saying it was a smart move, but I love it.
    Second was just recently- a DirectBuy membership. Jury on that is out still, but at least we could afford it. Money could have gone to other things, but we didn’t finance it or anything. Ask me in a few years what I think. (Got two round trip plane tickets for that and $200 in restaurant.com gift cards. Haven’t used the plane tickets yet, but the restaurant.com gift cards are actually pretty worthless.)

    • I think if you own one, you need to use it and get the best value you can out of it. I bet there are tons of people who own timeshares who never go on vacation.

  24. Timeshare industry is well known for being very vulnerable to scams; consequently, vacationers and timeshare owners should be aware of timeshare investments, phony offers to rent or resell timeshares or practically anything that sounds too good to be true.

  25. @Kim – Did the vouchers actually work? Anxiously waiting to hear the rest of the story!

    • Our first choice for vacation would have actually been next week, and we picked San Francisco as our destination. We got a letter in the mail about a month ago that said those dates were not possible, so we are waiting to see if we got our second dates which will be at the end of June to Philadelphia. Ironically, we probably will not be able to go that week, even if they Ok it. They only let you know 30 days before, so it’s really hard to plan or not plan. I will do a follow up post when the whole thing is said and done, but as of now, it seems like it might have been a waste of time.

      • Any update? Did you pay them the “refundable” $100 to get the plane tickets? We recently subjected ourselves to this as well. We didn’t give them any money, however, because REX became all squirley and sketchy when asked to log in to the “travel services” website and show us some current deals. I’m thinking no such website exists. Also, thank you, as your post came up when I was googling these folks during the presentation. Now we’re wondering whether it’s worth giving this other potential scam $100 and wasting our time following up.

        • Our first two requests were deemed “unable to process” so we’ve submitted two other destinations and times. My guess is that they want you to finally decline because you picked a day and place that isn’t available. When I hear back from those, I’ll do an update post.

          • I’m contemplating attending this exact same promotional event tomorrow. I’ve been “selected to receive” a Norwegian cruise for two and two round trip airfares. Dying to know: Did you ever get to use your gifts and what did it end up costing you?

          • It cost $100 to send off the paperwork for your flights. You have to select two separate cities you’d like to visit that are 45 days apart. We did not get either of our two choices. Said there was no availability. I picked two different ones and sent it back. I am still waiting to hear back on those. My thought is they deny you hoping you’ll choose to cancel, but I’m determined to get my “free” trip. I also asked if I could just use the hotel stay and forget the airfare and that was denied as well. I hope you have better luck!

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