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Schneiderman: Settlement with fraudulent vacation package scammers who targeted consumers, posed as major U.S. airlines

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Wed, Jan 21st 2015 02:05 pm

Company claimed consumers won free airfare and lodging, compelled them to attend sales presentation

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced his office reached a settlement with Vacation Tours USA Inc., a Florida-based firm, and its principals, Henry J. Armand and Tony J. Armand, over a false advertising scam targeting consumers across New York. The company sent letters to consumers telling them they had won a vacation package, including airfare and lodging, and invited them to attend a seminar at a local hotel. Letters listed the name of major U.S. airlines in the header, including US Air, Southwest and Jet Blue. Once at the hotel, consumers were subjected to a sales presentation conducted by a third-party company instead of being given vouchers for free airline tickets and hotel stays.

"Today's settlement makes it clear that scammers who mislead hard-working New Yorkers will be held accountable," Schneiderman said. "Nobody is above the law, and my office will take swift action against those who prey upon consumers."

The letters sent to consumers would state the company previously tried unsuccessfully to contact the consumer about their award and stated the retail value of the airline tickets and lodging is up to $1,398. The letter contained a claim number and a telephone number for the consumer to call to claim the prize. Once consumers made the call, they were told they must attend a seminar at a local hotel in order to claim their tickets and lodging. Once at the hotel, consumers sat through what amounted to a sales presentation where it became clear there were no free tickets or lodging.

Vacation Tours USA Inc. is documented as conducting seminars at locations in at least the following cities:

  • Albany
  • Buffalo
  • Binghamton
  • Newburgh
  • White Plains
  • Holtsville
  • Horseheads

The settlement reached by the attorney general's office requires the company to halt deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices in New York, pay restitution to all consumers who file a complaint with the attorney general's office within 90 days of the agreement, and to pay civil penalties and costs in the sum of $22,500.

If consumers believe they are victim of this scam, they can contact Schneiderman's office by calling 1-800-771-7755 or 607-721-8771.

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