Scammed out of a trip

(WSVN) - There are plenty of scammers out there who rip off, not just good people, but good, smart people. How? Because some scammers are very clever. They got one South Florida woman. Now she’s turning to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

There are people who like to travel. And people who love to travel.

Patricia Brumley: “Where do I start? Where have I not been?”

Put Patricia Brumley in the “loves to travel” column.

Patricia Brumley: “I’ve been to Africa about three times, France, Nice, spring break. I’m always going somewhere. I went to most of the Caribbean islands, including a little bit of Venezuela. It’s important not to just sit still but to go out and see the world.”

Patricia is a schoolteacher living on a budget, always looking to save. And then her school got this fax announcing a Cyber Monday super sale for a Caribbean cruise.

Patricia Brumley: “I called, the receptionist said, ‘Hey, you have to pay cash. You have to pay from your checking account.’ I didn’t think anything of it, because it’s such a good deal.”

Patricia gave the so-called agency the routing number to take $300 from her checking account. And later they asked her to send a $138 money order to a company they called “Worldwide Getaways.”

Patricia Brumley: “I was too excited. I should have slowed down and noticed the red flags.”

Red flags because they wanted cash or a money order, and wouldn’t accept a credit card.

As the scheduled date of the December trip passed, Patricia realized what was happening.

Patricia Brumley: “I kept calling, didn’t receive any tickets, didn’t receive any other emails. I’ve been scammed. How can I be scammed?”

Patricia then went online and found out she was not alone.

Patricia Brumley “And I should have done that earlier. I found reviews by others. I’m out of $438. Other people are out of $800, $1,200.”

While we were there, Patricia called the company. They answered and again told her they would call her back, but before they hung up, Patricia gave them a piece of her mind.

Patricia Brumley: “You guys are a scam, and you got me real good, too.”

There are a lot of crooks out there who succeed because most South Floridians are good, honest people, often very smart people like Patricia.

Patricia Brumley: “I thought with all my knowledge and four degrees — two master’s and a Ph.D. — you couldn’t get past me. But they did. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Too often, it is. So, Howard, legally, how do you protect yourself?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Of course ripping people off is a crime, so check out the company online before you do anything. If they won’t take a credit card or say the deal is only good today, it’s probably a scam. Use your common sense to avoid getting ripped off, because catching these scammers is difficult, and getting your money back is almost impossible.”

The people who took Patricia’s money operate under several different names.

We contacted one of them. They answered the phone and said someone would call us back. They never did.

They claimed to be selling trips on Norwegian Cruise Lines. A spokesperson for Norwegian told us, “We have no record of business or interaction with these companies.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Another scam we hear a lot about: It’s someone claiming to be from the IRS, the DEA, the Treasury, saying you owe money, and if you don’t pay you will be arrested. The government doesn’t call, ever, so laugh at the crook and hang up.”

The scammers got Patricia once. She vows no one will get her again.

Patricia Brumley: “I was excited. I was not thinking clearly. It’s not going to happen again. One time you can get me. It’s not going to happen again. Sometimes, in your excitement, you overlook some red flags.”

There are so many different kinds of scammers. Howard mentioned ways to avoid them, and there are some more tips to protect yourself. We have that list at the end of this Help Me Howard, as well as a way to get an email to notify you when a new scam pops up in South Florida.

Traveled too long with a problem? Ready to take a vacation from the headache? Cruise our way. Crooks hate us, ’cause we love helping you.

The link to the FTC’s article on how to avoid being a victim of fraud: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud

To get Scam Alerts: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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