Suspicious Travel Offer Prompts Warning in Twin Cities Metro

Updated: 07/17/2014 7:16 AM
Created: 07/16/2014 10:47 PM
By: Beth McDonough

A suspicious travel offer is making its way around the Twin Cities. 

It's on the heels of a warning just out this week from the Better Business Bureau. The offer comes in the mail and promises a fabulous vacation at a bargain price, or for free.

A letter landed in the mailbox of a Hopkins home belonging to an employee of the BBB.  A two-day get away sounds nice to Dan Hendrickson, plus a two night stay at a hotel was even better.  The travel promises are made in print, and there's even a claim number.

However, Hendrickson is savvy and has seen these summertime specials before and calls them suspect.

Ron Klatke got an offer, too. He was interested enough in the promotion, so he called the number listed on the letter and agreed to sit through a 90-minute seminar at a hotel in Maple Grove.

"It enticed us to get free airfare and vacation just for coming here," he said.

The sign outside the seminar says the seminar is put on by Island Traders Vacation, which is affiliated with another company, Grand Travel Worldwide. 

Klatke was told to bring his spouse or partner, a valid ID and credit card to redeem the travel voucher, but there's a catch.

“They're not free -- they're complimentary. You are responsible for the taxes, and you have to pay the reservation deposit on it," said Scott Zeilman, a seminar host.  He insists folks aren't obligated.

In most cases, the vouchers claim their worth nearly $1,400. Behind closed doors folks get vouchers, plus they say they are pressured into buying into spendy travel clubs.

"You could save a lot on trips if you pay membership fees and annual dues. It would be great if we had the money to do that, but we don't have the money," Melanie Flores of St. Michael said.

It takes nearly $9,000 to join. KSTP reporter Beth McDonough asked the seminar representatives if this was a scam; they said no.

We then asked to sit through a seminar and were told we didn't have a voucher with our name on it so we're not invited. Not only were we denied entrance, we were treated to a heated exchange.

The BBB scolded Grand Travel Worldwide in the past for allegedly sending out offers designed to look like they came from airlines.  We checked, and Island Trader Vacations is not registered with the BBB, but its contact information matches that of Fantasia Vacation Club, which gets an “F.”  It was sued by the Massachusetts Attorney General in 2012 for allegedly selling worthless vacation club memberships.

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