Close call with a Caribbean cruise line scam

In the middle of working on a blog post about SMS phishing scams at my desk last night, I received a rather strange call.  The number displayed on the Caller ID was +1 (360) 474-3925.  I did not recognize the number, but since it was 7:10PM, I assumed it was a colleague trying to reach me at my desk from somewhere around the world.

Same Ship, Different Bot

To my amazement, it was the same scam survey call I had written about three weeks ago here at the ESET Threat Blog (Press One if by LAN, Two if by Sea…).  It was a little different, though, this time:

ROPAX ferry

The Prinsesse Ragnhild in 2005. In 2008, she changed owners and was renamed Bahamas Celebration (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Instead of Robo-John announcing that I had been selected to take a 30-second telephone survey and receive a free cruise to the Bahamas for my efforts, it was robo-Sally. This time, robo-Sally did not give the name of the organization “performing” the survey (more about this later), but instead began the process of performing the survey by telephone keypad. The scammer’s system seemed to have trouble recognizing my responses as I pressed the buttons on my phone, but eventually I was able to answer all five questions, at which point I was told I was being routed to a person for processing my free cruise.

Untangling the Caribbean Cruise Line Scam

The last three times this happened, I never got to speak to a human, but this time, I must have gotten lucky, because I was speaking to none other than “Melvin Jones” of Caribbean Cruise Line. I am putting “Melvin’s” name in quotation marks, since I do not know if that was his real name, or part of the script he was reading from. I introduced myself to “Melvin,” who confirmed that I had been forwarded to them by Political Opinions of America; something the automated survey no longer says.  I also told “Melvin” when introducing myself that I was a fraud researcher with ESET and that I had previously worked at a travel agency that specialized in leisure cruise travel; both true, and something that should have sent “Melvin” scurrying for the disconnect button on his headset.  “Melvin” seemed rather oblivious to this (or perhaps hopelessly naïve), and proceeded to pitch me on the cruise for the next twenty minutes or so, reading out loud large sections of Caribbean Cruise Line’s web site.  Here are some of the things I learned in my conversation with “Melvin:”

  • The ship in question is the MS Bahamas Celebration.
  • The cruise takes place out of the Port of Palm Beach, Florida.
  • The destination is the island of Grand Bahama, with a stay at a resort.
  • In order to guarantee my free cruise, I must pay a “government port tax” of $59.00 per person via American Express, MasterCard or VISA.  Both credit and debit cards are accepted.
  • “Melvin” is married and has never been to California but his favorite basketball team is the L.A. Lakers.

It is the fourth item on the list that is of greatest interest.  It is probably more accurate to state that the minimum cost is $118.00, as a minimum of two people are needed to book an inside stateroom (and a maximum of four).  Digging through information about Caribbean Cruise Line, it seems the government port tax is non-refundable, which is something “Melvin” did not mention to me in the twenty or so minutes we chatted.

After making his pitch, “Melvin” got down to closing, becoming increasingly adamant that I give him an American Express, MasterCard or VISA card in order to pay for my free cruise.  I tried to offer a Diners Club or a JCB card, instead, but was told these were not acceptable by “Melvin” who became increasingly eager to close the call.  I encouraged “Melvin” to visit the ESET Threat Blog web site so he could read what we had previously written about him, but he became evasive, saying he and his wife did not know how to do that from their home computer, and they could not go to non-work-related web sites while at work.

Scammer admits survey, cruise are from same company

As it finally dawned on “Melvin” that he had just spent twenty-three minutes not getting a sales commission, the last thing I told him was that I was sure I would be speaking to his company again soon, given the number of times I had received calls from Political Opinions of America.  “Melvin” replied that would not happen, since he was placing me on his company’s “do-not-call” list, basically admitting that the survey company and the cruise operator are the same company.

I did place a follow up call today to Caribbean Cruise Line at +1 (800) 586-6693 and asked to speak to “Melvin Jones” and while the receptionist was initially confused, she did eventually acknowledge him when I mentioned I had taken a politcal survey offered to take a message.  I got that telephone number from this Better Business Bureau report.  Although Caribbean Cruise Line is not accredited by the Bureau, they have a D+ rating (on a scale from a high of A+ to a low of F) with over 1,200 complaints lodged against them in the past three years

I am not sure if I will receive any further calls, but if I do, you can read about it here in the ESET Threat Blog.

 

Aryeh Goretsky, ZCSE, MVP
Distinguished Researcher


Have you received an automated call offering a free cruise in exchange for taking a quick political survey?  Let us know what happened by leaving a comment, below!

 

Author Aryeh Goretsky, ESET

122 Responses to “Close call with a Caribbean cruise line scam”

  1. Stephen Cobb says:

    Deftly narrated Aryeh. I love "Same Ship, Different Bot." And I see this post made the front page of "Cruises for Less Daily."

  2. Telzey Amberdon says:

    Good lord, what do you have to do to get an "F" from the Better Business Bureau?  Off a customer because you always wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone??

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      Apparently they are not a member of the Better Business Bureau, so the rating should be considered advisory. Thanks for your feedback, always good to hear from a fan of James H. Schmitz.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  3. M. Richards says:

    I agree with Stephen Cobb, Aryeh.  I don't often see writing of your superb quality online.  I was only disappointed that your post was not longer and did not explain precisely what the scam is.  I just received exactly the same call, and did not give my credit card.  Had I given my card, would the scammers have put through a charge for as much as they could get from my account?  Would I not receive any cruise?  Is the cruise so terrible, I would be sorry I took it?  Do they not pay the port fees?  Other?
     

  4. Aryeh Goretsky says:

    M.,

    As mentioned in the first blog article, the scam is to get your credit card number and charge you for a `free` cruise that you are unlikely to take.  According to some of the reports on the BBB site and elsewhere, the few people who do manage to take the cruise are bombarded with high-pressure sales tactics to invest in a timeshare or other schemes.

    Regards,

    Aryeh Goretsky

  5. mento says:

    I loved the story and your writing, it appears that in the end almost no free stuff, especially as gifts of equal value, such as rowing, whatever it always cost us something. In any case when a person we do not know wants a credit card over the phone should give up the gift "that he offers not to be seduced.

  6. SKMTL says:

    I just got off the phone with this very same offer after completing a short political survey.  This is in Montreal (Quebec, Canada), so they're coming across the border.  They gave me ths same pitch & money as outlined above, and when I refused to give my credit card #, they were very understanding, said they would feel the same way, etc…  Then the supervisor came on the phone, explained the deal to me again and understood my hesitation. They said since the credit card # was being given over the phone, it would only go through once I gave my okay/authorization with the receipt that would be electronically sent.  They did a good job of sounding very authentic, and then after 23 minutes, they suddenly hung up on me after I said that I would not be interested in going through with the offer at this time, even though I thought they were going to have me register for future considerations. Thank goodness I was reading this blog while I was on-line as I wanted to check out right away if this was a scam I was dealing with.

  7. Gary Berns says:

    I actually took this cruise deal in 1995.  For an hour at a timeshare pitch we had a great weekend.  Even won money at the casino in Freeport.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      I’m glad to hear you had a good experience seventeen years ago. Unfortunately, it appears that in the intervening years, their modus operandi has somewhat changed.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  8. Jane Doe says:

    I just received this phone call. I am located in Montreal, Quebec. I was first asked to answer a quick 30 second survey on Canada Politics: One question about taxes, pension plan and oil. After pressing randomly pressing 3 numbers, I got transferred to redeem my 2 day cruise. My operator was Chloe with her employee number was AQ8517. I decided to have some fun and ask her useless questions. As she was explaining to me the cruise details I constantly asked her to pause so I can "write down the information" (instead I was searching the web about how popular this scam is) but she refused and kept talking. She tried changing the conversation asking for my credit card number. I asked if my flight is included (did not mention where I am located). She then transferred me to her "supervisor". He did not answer my inquiry about flight but instead repeated the same basic information as what "Chloe" did. I then kept asking for a call back number since I was "busy at the moment". He became unimpatient and hung up. 
    The number that appeared on my caller ID was 1-647-725-2914

    • Laura Beaudin says:

      That’s a Toronto area code. I live in southern Ontario, just outside Toronto, and I’ve received 3 calls in the last week from this company calling from 514-392-9121, which is a Montreal number. Looks like they target outside their local areas.

  9. Stephen Cobb says:

    Congratulations Aryeh! This scam finally made the IC3 alerts:

    http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/120808.aspx

  10. duped says:

    So…I admit, I was retarded, so excited that I "won" a cruise and, yes, shamefully gave them my CC#.  THEN even worse, because you are told you have 18 months to book your cruise vacation, I waited 7 months before going online and reviewing the details and visiting their cheesy website.  After realizing this is an awful scam, I called them to try and get a refund.  After about 45 min on the phone with 3 people (2 reps, 1 supervisor), I was rudely told that I was bantering with them and I am not entitled to my $118.  Even if I don't travel within the 18 months, they will not refund the $118 because it's a port charge paid to the Bahama government.  Whether that's a lie or not, I'm not sure.  Since if no person actually goes on the cruise, why should they have to pay any government any tax fee?  So basically they feed off idiots like me and pocket the $118.  *Sigh*

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      I certainly don’t think you were dumb: These are scammers, and scammers prey on unsuspecting people.

      Thank you for sharing your experience.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  11. Christine says:

    This just happened to me three times when I tried to make an outgoing call!! I was calling different places to check my accounts/pay bills–SHNBC, Kohls and Verizon and the phone would not let me call anyone without first being directed to this stuped “free cruise” bs line! I screamed at that woman so bad and told her I was going to have her arrested!!
    Then, I tried to call Verizon and got no answer–22 times!!!! This is bs–Im cancelling everything and shooting them all!!!

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello Christine,

      Thanks for letting us know your experience—it sounds like their auto-dialler had some sort of problem and was caught in a loop calling your telephone over and over. Since using that type of technology for this type of call is illegal you should also file a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission about this abuse.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  12. Jason says:

    I seem to get a call from these people every week (usually from a different number). I don't answer numbers I don't recognize, but when I look them up afterwards–yep, it's the cruise scam.
    The big question I have, given how long this has been going on, is why it hasn't been shut down yet. These are all U.S. numbers beings used. With hundreds or thousands of calls being made every week, can't the FBI, or whoever should be in charge of this, find them and shut them down?

  13. Alicia S says:

    Same quick survey, same promise, same follow up calls. As soon as I heard I would need to pay $120 for 2 people $59 per person) for "port fees", I asked if I could have them call me back/if I could call back after I checked on these "port fees" with my travel agent since it didn't make sense to me that, before you even BOOKED the actual cruise, you needed to pay something. A supervisor was brought on the line & tried to give me the spiel. He told me it was a one time offer, just as the Packers don't get a 2nd chance at Super Bowl (nice touch since I am in fact from Green Bay lol), I couldn't call back so I either needed to accept or decline immediately. I chose the "decline" option. Called my mom, who's been on cruises, and she said she didn't even know what a port fee was. Then saw this article. Yup-same ship as mentioned in article. Luckily for me, I'm immediately suspicious of things that sound too good to be true.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      Thanks for the feedback; I also checked with my travel agent as part of the research into this article as most of our travel as threat researchers is by airplane and not via cruise ship.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  14. Annette says:

    I too was scammed today while trying to call Khol's to inquire why my order had not arrived. My phone temperarely highjacked.  I too was fast talked, bullied and lied to by Celebration Cruise Line/ Caribbean Cruise/ VCS Vacation.  I called back within an  hour when I found out I had been charged. The supervisor "Adam" actually told me I would not get a refund and this phone call is over.  He then hung up on me after claimming I was rude to him all the while I couldn't get a word in while he spoke to me in a way that leads to divorce in couples.  Actually I listened patiently to four individuals Carla, Shaquita, Mary and Latrice all of which did all the talking, none of them heard a word I tried to get in edgewise.  At this point cruise or not, I would not trust this company with my vacation plans. I work to hard for my money and Disney these bucket heads are not!  They have demonstrated  a  level of  complete and utter disregard for the consumer.  The "How Dare You" attitude of the employees is amazing.  Hopefully I will get my money back, I have filed fraud complaint with my bank, The  Florida Department of Consumer Affairs and The Florida BBB.  If you find and believe anything good about this company, and choose to spend your vacation with them,  cross your fingers and hope nothing goes wrong.  Simple put they don't care if your are happy.  Hallmark signs of a scam artist at work.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Annette. I hope that your bank is able to get your money back for you.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  15. Sophia says:

    I just had a painful experience with them. After they spent hours with me on the phone, I decided to buy the package cuz they told me I could cancel it within one week with a full refund. However, when I tried to cancel it with them, they tried to argue with me on why I decided not to give it a try and what articles did I read from online. They insisted the articles were not telling the truth.  I called several times, and each time ended up with the similar rudeness that they hang up the phone with me. I am still in the process of working with my credit card company to get this resolved.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      Disputing the charge with your credit card company is probably the best thing to do in this situation.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

    • Sophia, Please see my post above. I had a similar experience and was terrified of going through the refund process, however I received a very prompt refund when I sent in written notice. I hope this helps!!

  16. Deanna Hardaway says:

    Thats why when I get these suspicious calls I check  make sure if its a scam or not. It saved me from making a couple mistakes. Don't give out your credit card info before doing your homework.

  17. Taylor says:

    Not a single person on here has said how this is a scam. I actually worked at caribbean cruise line. They tell everybody that the port taxes are non-refundable in verification. So my question to all of you is, "What is the scam?" Do you know what the word "scam" means? If you paid your port taxes and decided you did not want the cruise 7 months later, how is that a scam? Do any of you know what port taxes are? Every cruise line has to charge port taxes. Those are taxes that go to the port authority for the shipping using a federal port. You all make me laugh. 

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello Taylor/Morgan,

      Thank you for your comment. I thought it was pretty clear that this was a scam, as well as how it worked, but I can see how as an employee of the company operating it, you might feel otherwise. So, in a nutshell, a robodialler calls one at home, work, or wherever, with a fake political survey from a fake polling organization. Once completed, the victim is told that they have one a free cruise, only to be subject to paying “port taxes” (plus beverages on-board the ferry, etc.). So, in other words, it’s not really free, there are expenses involved. Also, government-imposed port fees (i.e., port taxes) have to be refunded when a port of call is canceled—which may either be a reimbursement or a credit for services on board the ship.

      Then, there’s the whole business of using high-pressure sales tactics to get vacationeers to sign up for timeshares, as has been reported numerous times.

      In the case where someone does not actually even board the ship, asking them to pay a “non-refundable port tax” seems a little shady to me, at the very least.

      Since you seem rather dogmatic that this scam is, indeed, an aboveboard legitimate business enterprises, I am not sure what I can say to convince you otherwise. Therefore, I’ll instead give you the following two resources to follow up on, should you so desire:

      Thank you for taking the time to write.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

      • Michael says:

        Aryeh hello I was calling my AMX card around Christmas and got this company instead. up front the message I listened to said I won a free cruise … but as I listened it did say I would have to pay 59.00 pp for port tax so me being me I waited and ended up talking to a man named Randall S EN 6651 employee number I write everything down I talked with him for over 45 min he did answer all my question I had and my wife also went as far as to give me the Ramada Inn number where I would be staying while I was in Ft Laud, as i was still talking to him my wife called and they did confirm that they work with this company. I also did read the scam reports before I gave my credit card info as I used my AMX and am covered against any fraud charges. Well we just got back and yes it is a real ship and a real vacation I paid 935.00 and got everything I was told I would get.. Is it a scam yes and no yes because they do the robo calles no because they do give you what they say they will bty I dialed the wrong number on my AMX card that day

    • Sopheap Chea says:

      How do you pay for a port fee when you haven’t even gone on the trip yet? THAT makes me laugh. I have been on many cruises and never had to pay a port tax fee.

    • Mish says:

      U are part of this scam!!!!
      How one they don’t have an office and abruptly hang up !

  18. SpeiCee says:

    I was just called by the number (360) 460-5964.  If this is the same scam, which having read these posts I can assume that it is a virtual certainty, then they are presenting the scam slightly differently.  The questionaire was about living situation: do I rent or own, does my residence have sewage or septic, and also have I earned a college degree.  After the questionaire I was immediately connected to an operator who did not request any financial information, only my name.  Before I was even willing to give that I asked some questions.  She diverted my questions related to the trip (where does the ship take off, is air-fair included, etc) by saying she doesnt work for them and that she doesnt want to try to give information she hasnt been specifically provided.  Other questions she was more comfortable with answering.  ie "will anyone in future phone calls ask me for financial information and payment" — she said no!  ITS FREE!…  She re-itterated to me much the same as the automated operator explained that this opportunity is afforded due to the attempt to fill each ship to capacity.  Due to the fact that many people who would make the quick decision to go ahead and put a small port fee on the line in hopes of going on a free cruise I have also believe that this is potentially legit.
    I say that with somewhat of lightness – a legit program is not necessarily reflective of an enjoyable vacation.  I suspect that they do make a sweet handful of cash on persons who end up paying the "port fee" but dont end up being able to go.  The falacy with this whole website is that no one says anything about not being given a free cruise if they have attempted to schedule it.  The only "scam" I am convinced has been revealed is the early payment of port fees.  This, however, is not necessarily a scam.  I suggest instead of hearing anymore stories exactly like the ones already posted that we hear about an instance that is a true scam.
    For example it would be a true scam if you had tried to schedule the trip within the time frame given and were rejected over a large span of potential launch dates.  For instance, this is not a scam -like statement "sorry that ship is full, you could go on this ship though."  But this would be scam-like, "sorry that ship is full, and so is every other ship for the remaining 17 months of your 18 month window for the free cruise.
    Don't get me wrong.  It goes without saying that the business plan of these individuals is sketchy.  I'd say it is likely that it is at least a lie that they do not make some to all of the money of "port fees" with canceled accounts.  I consider this bad business, as well as morally wrong.  However, if one has the ability to get to the ship, has an open schedule for being able to go on a trip, "when the trip is available for you," and will take action to get the trip planned and make it happen then I deduce that you can truly get a "free cruise" for the price of port fees.
    You need to realize though, a cruise is much like a high priced strip store with entertainment.  They throw a lot at you for free and put a lot of pressure on you to recipricate on the financial balance at your own discretion if not by the price tag.  That is you are given the opportunity to tip everyone on the ship, plus most products on the ship is "screw your wallet expensive" and of cheap make.  Also, assume that you will not have any mobile connection without paying 5$ – 10$ per minute.  But if you would at least be able to enjoy your time if you are lazily floating on a big boat and can ignore/divert the sell sell sell tactics, while having the relatively high quality free food… well then you can probably make the best of this.
    Tread lightly though, only do it if you WILL GET IT DONE.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      Thanks for updating us on the scammer’s latest polling scheme and your feedback, SpeiCee.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

      .

  19. angie lopez says:

    After all the above comments I can add one more thing that happened to me.  I called back and I said can I give you a credit card that I can purchase for the $118.00 that would cover the port tax fee?  I was given the following response.
    " well since this is your second call to us we are limited one call per customer so you have to go to our website and log in we do not garantee that you will be able to get the same promotion that we offered you on the first phone call we made to you"

  20. D Winslow says:

    We just got the same scam.  I was calling the number on the back of my Khol's credit card to activate the card, when the voice said, Congratulations, you just won a two night cruise to the Bahamas, press any button to speak with a Caribbean Cruise representative.  Spoke to a representative who gave me all sorts fo confirmation codes, emails, etc but being cautious did not give any credit card information.  Certainly sounded legit but have our doubts.  Still need to call coroporate Khol's to let them know what happened.  After hanging up, called the Khol's number again and was able to activate my credit card.  How in the world were they able to hijack that number?

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello D Winslow,

      Thanks for your feedback!

      This sounds like a problem with the bank of phone numbers used by Kohl’s. What was the number given on the Kohl’s credit card? Have you contacted their corporate office to ask them about this rather strange event?

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  21. Don says:

    ALL numbers having a prefix of 360 and 206 that have called me are blocked on my phone. These recorded messages are phone spam. "Hello. This is your captain speaking." If everyone who received these calls reported them to the BBB, the BBB would be overwhelmed and stop recording.

    • Aryeh Goretsky says:

      Hello,

      The 206 area code is for Seattle, Washington, and 360 for outside of Seattle, so you may be doing yourself a disservice by blocking those area codes.

      That said, I do not think it is a bad idea to file a complaint with the BBB and the FTC. The more people that complain, the more likely it is for them to do something about the scam.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  22. K. Askeland says:

    I’m surprised by the number of folks that fall for these scams. I have been receiving calls for weeks … no make that months. Most times I am on my antique rotory phone so I can’t respond to the Robo caller. When I use my push button phone I like to string them along … and in the end ask to be removed from their calling list. I still receive the calls so I give them A for persistance.

    Today I received mail advising me that i had won a FREE trip to the Bahamas along with a $1300 voucher. I was SOOOO excited. LOL

    I always remember what my mother told us … “If it sounds too good to be try … then it probably is.” NOTHING IS FREE!!!! Wake up folks!!

  23. jv says:

    Just got a similar call, a woman saying “Congratulations you’ve been selected to receive a free cruise to the Bahamas” from 202-407-3261. Scammers.

  24. britt jackson says:

    They are now running this scam in on radio air play with the phone number 18003684315.

  25. James Maxx says:

    I received the same exact scam in the mail. Opened the envelope and there were 2 fake boarding passes and a $1300 fake check from Caribbean Cruise Line. I called the 1-800-586-6693 number and this cheerful Midwestern man gives me the whole friendly sales talk about the cruise. At the end of 15 minutes of talking he says I need to pay $59 for my wife and I via credit card. I played dumb and said to him I already have boarding passes which means I paid, and I don’t have any credit cards. He was suddenly pretty annoyed and hung up :-D

  26. 1Chanel says:

    New phone number is 1-800-441-1524— When I called, as getting very frustrated by the calls on both my cells, my home land-line and my work land line—They hung up on me when I asked to talk to a manager– so then I decided to have some fun- I am phoning them at 1-800-441-1524– and screaming I won I won— then calling and letting them know this is a fun game they taught me– phone people repeatedly—- then hang up!

    I ‘think’ they may remove my number–

  27. Shelby says:

    I just got one from a different number. Anyone seen one from 775-400-8245?

  28. Lily says:

    I’m pretty sure they pulled my credit without permission. I have not been answering their calls after first talking with them and realizing it was a scam. I did not give them permission, and they somehow accessed a local number to call me so I would pick up and gave me the information that way. The guy then mentioned my credit report. What the hell? Isn’t that illegal? Can I sue?

  29. Stephen Cobb says:

    Lily — That does sound pretty extreme. We do not provide legal advice here, but if I thought someone was looking at my credit report for marketing purposes I would contact an attorney and the FTC https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

  30. Stephen Cobb says:

    James – We appreciate this update on their tactics. If you have time to file a complaint with the FTC that would help. The more complaints they get, the more likely they will take action (and the FTC does sue and fine companies, it is one of the better .gov agencies): https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

    • Mish says:

      Why not just call them back on +1 (800) 586-6693
      And threaten them that u are with some fraud bureau and ur act has been caught and the secret service is now on your case. U can run but you can’t hide. Muhahaha

  31. Stephen Cobb says:

    That is indeed their number. Where are you hearing this on the radio?

  32. Look at this well developed scam (Caribbean Cruise Line & the Berkley Group) at http://www.thecaribbeancruisescam.com

  33. john harper says:

    I work for them also. It’s not a scam. It’s a promotional call. We thouroughly go over all the details before transfering you to a verification department that goes over all the details again and make you an audio verbal receipt. Of course we try to upsale you a better room on the ship and get you to stay longer on the Island. We send people toMexio and Las Vegas, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando. It’s telephone sales. Sales is the art of persuasion. No one is forcing you to go on vacation. It might not be the best cruise line available in your opinion but they did travel over half a million people to the Bahamas last year.

    • bluega11 says:

      Your post is excellent,and i feel to be factual, My wife and i cruise every other year or so. The moment you check into the hotel or set feet on the streets outside people would be promoting free Disney , or other theme parks tickets and free parking most was given to you after a Time Share presentation. The man promise us a free lunch a tour of a beautiful Time Share Resort,and oh yell about three hundred dollars worth of free amusement park tickets , Well we had a a very good lunch at the resort ,a tour of one beautiful family sweet,follow by a sale pitch presentations all of this took about an hour of our time.Companies who do these promotions out there are not all crooks and scammers ,most of the time it just a way to promote a product.The Time Share presentation that we set in on in Orlando had many time share buyers that day,because we talk to several before and after that presentation,no my wife and i didn’t buy a Time Share that day but we got everything the promotional guy promise.I don’t know why so many posters on this site would be so outrage about paying a 59.00 dollar tax feed and other appropriate taxes ,if you can’t afford the taxes and the fee services, why would be going on a cruise,free or not broke.

  34. Rocky says:

    I called to cancel my phone and was on hold. I listened to a recorded message stating that I had won a “free cruise vacation for 2″. On further inquiry I was told they would charge $119 dollars for a cruise vacation for 2. Also they said that I was a “VIP” and offered me a $3000 package for $500 for hotel stay in miami and bahamas. I actually gave them my information and bought the package.

    Less than a minute later I realized how insane this was. I called up my credit card and the Banker was understandable baffled. She told me to dispute the charge and Call up VCS and cancel the charge.

    Here s where it got ugly. After being transferred, I was on the phone with a guy who was rude and possibly angry. After an uncomfortable conversation for about 30 mins, he transferred me to a “supervisor”.

    It was back to square 1 with this guys. Same Freaking Questions. ” why dont you want it anymore? but you just paid? Let me explain what you just bought …….” This went on for abt 20 mins

    I finally asked him “All you need to tell me is, can you cancel the charge? yes or no. If no then I will fight it as a fraud.”

    He asked me if I wanted to Buy some land instead of the vacation(or atleast thats what I thought he said.)

    He also tried to give me a “partial refunds”. I finally told him that I m leaving and need to hang up and I ill fight this charge as a fraud.

    He said he can refund the money in 7-10 days.

    If you are in my situation: Be calm even if they are rude. Be firm that you want to cancel the charge and make sure to let them know that you know your rights.

    Hope you guys learn from my incident.

  35. Carol says:

    I just got a pseudo boarding pass saying if I call a number within 72 hrs I can get a 3 day cruise for 2. Has anyone else had this experience?

  36. naheed says:

    I am in Calgary Canada. I got the 5 question opinion poll and told they would call me back to give me details on my free cruise. I was like, yah right! today, about 5 days later, I got a call from the cruise company and blah blah they read everything of the details. the “travel agent” would keep exclaiming at all the great things on board and I would be like “yah” waiting for the catch. then it comes 118.0 in port charges. I laughed and said you really think I am going to pay that. its a scam! he was affronted! he said let me take your e-mail address in three minutes I will send you our website and bonded number and trade number and then you can call us back and get the free cruise. ten minutes gone by….no mail!!!!

  37. Dann says:

    New number again. 13139385288.
    This has been going on for almost a year now.
    People need to stop filing complaints and start demanding action from the authorities. These people should have been dealt with a long time ago.

  38. Sopheap Chea says:

    I received a text from 5127@vvtext.com saying “Congratulations! Your Entry has won. Call now to claim your Trip to the Bahamas Call 855-679-0021 Now!!” I don’t remember entering a contest for a cruise but I do enter many contests so I wasn’t sure. I called and they said everything mentioned above about the $59 and what not. When I was about to give them my card # I had a bad feeling and asked them if they could put me on hold cause I wanted to speak to my boyfriend about it. They were hesitant about doing it and said they’d add him to the call. I was put on hold and I looked up if this was a scam and came across this page so I hung up. They tried to call me three more times but I didn’t not answer and they did not call my boyfriend either.

  39. Attia says:

    I just received a phone call from an automated machine to participate in a survey for a free cruise as well. There were five questions after such I was prompted to press 1 to receive a phone call from a travel agency. After pressing 1, I received a busy signal and hung up. A lady called about 5 mins later in regards to the free cruise prize for 2 for answering her survey. I got bored and denied the whole thing stating she must have the wrong number. She apologized but before she hung up I heard her say “I have to leave somebody is hacking our system.”

  40. Michelle says:

    I just got off the phone with a manager who was put on the line when I refused to pay in advance for port fees or to give any credit card info and was asked why I didn’t freely give that info to a stranger. They did not call me with a survey but sent a letter with the offer of a free cruise. Otherwise , it sounds like the same company referred to by previous posts. I made the call to them but waiting for the “catch” and when I heard the request for money and when I heard the inane question by the manager I politely said no thanks and hung up. So beware of letters as well as calls.

  41. Chandice says:

    Just a few minutes ago a Cruise Line company called me and I spoke to a man named “Bob McHenry”. He also said I was extremely lucky to only have to pay a government tax fund of $59. He asked me about my first and last name and what state I am from. Eventually he discovered there was no adult around but practically pleaded and begged to speak with my mom. I said no, hung up, and now I am here trying to figure out if it was all just a scam.

  42. Chandice says:

    “Bob” also kept telling me I had 18 months to get ready and that after my cruise I needed to tell everyone how great it was advertise for them. It sounded reasonable to me but now I am not so sure.

  43. franceska saint-juste says:

    hi ! i’m franceska and they tried to scam me too! i’m from montreal canada. this are the numbers they used : 1-416-905-2175
    1800-446-1524

  44. Bernd Stromberg says:

    Just got a call from 1(281)382-6532
    It was showing Houston Texas on the display
    She wanted to offer me a free cruise as well.
    But i hung up after 30 seconds, i dont have patience for this.
    I just feel sorry for the people that are a victim to this scam.
    They have to spend precious time to try and get their money back.
    Life’s too short and those lowlifes should go to jail for a long time

  45. Suzette Poirier says:

    Just received this same pitch, but the cruise company name was “Royal Bahama”. I bailed when they said they wanted to charge $59 dollars in “Port Taxes” in advance, and needed my credit card number to charge it to. Pffft!

  46. adamd1 says:

    Was there any result after this? I’ve been getting these calls repeatedly for nearly two full years now.

  47. Tara says:

    Just received a call from a “lady robot” saying I’ve won a free cruise to Bahamas and all I have to do is answer some questions. As soon as I heard that I hung up, never getting to to the survey (too good to be true). I googled it right away only to learn that my instinct was right and it’s a scam.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have Caller ID on my cellular, so I don’t know what their number was. What I can tell you is that I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada–neighbours, beware!

  48. Thimbles says:

    Just got an offered a cruise to the Bahamas on my Rogers cell in British Columbia. Same automated call script asking me to complete a 30 second survey.

    I pressed 9 and hung up.

    Phone number was from Ontario Canada. 416-613-5802

    Turns out a couple of people are getting this scam.

    http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/4166135802

    http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-416-613-5802/2

  49. Weary says:

    Thanks for the info, I just received a robo-Sally from (416) 613-5802. It offered the Bahamas cruise for 2 for a quick survey. I was a telemarketer for a summer job who did survey’s for a vacuum company so I wasn’t up for my ‘free’ prize. I hung up, looked online and found your story and thought I’d thank you for the info.

  50. Cheryl J says:

    I have got a robo-call contact about winning a cruise & I just have to do a survey several times in the last couple years. I just ignored them until the other day when I was bored and thought I would see what would happen. The survey had 5 Canadian styled questions about what was more important to me the economy, immigration or something else etc. They said again that I had won and I didn’t catch what I was supposed to do & the call ended. I thought I wonder what this scam is, especially since they didn’t transfer me to anyone. The next day a “travel agent” robo-call came with a female voice saying for me to call her back to set up the vacation. I never did but a couple days later a man called to try to close the deal. It was an actual person and he said they do this to promote there cruises & that I would be expected to provide word of mouth regarding my vacation. They asked I was over 18, told me I would need ID, passport since I was in Canada and credit card to pay for the tax. I was curious about how this worked so I went along for a bit. He wanted my credit card and I said I was not prepared to provide it right now. My husband heard me talking about not giving out my credit card and asked what the call was. I asked the man if he could hold for a second while I talk to my husband at which point he hung up on me. He has not called back yet (it was earlier today). I was a bit surprised since he didn’t try to hard to suck me in. Will see if he calls back. I went online to see if anyone else had info on the scam. Hi, guys. I had wanted to ask them to send me something in writing & I am interested in one of the comments below that said they did send out mail to him.

  51. ALLEN says:

    My wife called FAMILY DOLLAR and was told by a robo message that she had won a 3 day, 2 night “free” cruise. Once connected, she was told that she would need to use her cc for two people at $59.00 each. She said no thank you because we had no way to get to FL. The lady said, “thank you” and hung up.

  52. Dale CHadwick says:

    OMG. I don’t know what got into me. At a very weak moment, I booked the 3 day 2 night free cruise to the Bahamas on the “Bahama Celebration”. It took me over a half hour to decline the offers to “upgrade” my vacation. I stated explicitly that all I wanted was the 3 day 2 night cruise. The insisted that I take the extra stay at Miami or Orlando. WHy would I want to stay in Miami or Orlando when the cruise left from West Palm Beach???. Stupidly, and I mean stupidly, I paid the up front “port taxes”, $237. Within 24 hours I called to cancel, knowing it would be a challenge. It was. I will not go into detail, but PLEASE PLEASE warn as many people as you can that this is a total scam. The only reason that I was able to get my money back was because I did not take their ridiculous offer to stay in Orlando or Miami. If I had, my $237 would have NOT been a port tax at all, but would have constituted a pre-payment for the cruise which was not by law, refundable. Whom, oh whom, can I contact to put “Bahama Celebrations” out of business. I don’t know how this company (if that is what it is) can continue this scam.

  53. curiousq says:

    Please can someone explain why this is a scam. Has anyone been on the free cruise ?

  54. Grendeb says:

    How do we stop this?

    • Hello Grendeb,

      The best thing to do is to report the scam to your state attorney general’s office, the Better Business Bureau, the state of Florida’s attorney general’s office, and, of course, share information about the scam with your friends and family so they won’t be taken by it.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  55. PriyaVassi says:

    got this one in Montreal and have gotten it multiple times, so annoying

  56. Jasmin says:

    My father bought the extended package along with the “free” cruise. He ended up going and took my little sister. They had a lot of fun. He had to buy his own plane tickets and they had to sit in a timeshare presentation. I know of a few people that did it… I actually just received a free cruise call and my friend told me it’s a scam? So I listened to the call and they do lie and hold some information back to get you to take the cruise. Overall I wouldn’t consider it a scam.. a little misleading..

  57. Anonymous says:

    I just recently had this experience however I accidently called them. I was trying to call the SF Firemens Credit Union and instead of dialing 1-888-499-3473 I dialed 1-800-499-3473. These people lied to me when I asked them if it was the SF Firemens Credit Union and they told me “Oh there is backlog of calls and you are being diverted to us” which of course made me feel they were somehow associated with the SF Firemens Credit Union. I was suckered as well, for port fees of $118.00 and then they tried to sell me other things. I then told them no to everything. Here is how low down these people are, I even told them I was in default with credit card so they would not be able to run the charges and that is the reason I was trying to contact the SF Firemens Credit Union, their response “oh no problem we can work around that” After that I made the correct call to my Credit card company and explained all that to them and cleared my balance with credit card company and then had to cancel my credit card. I have never been so happy I was in trouble with my credit card in my life because sure enough even though I told these scammers no, they still tried to run the charge but it was declined by my credit card company saving me many months of grief.

  58. Manny says:

    i was at work and called my tech line cause i was having computer issues, and a robo-voice came on, it said i have won a trip for two to the bahamas. I almost hug up cause the first thing that poped in my head was scam, but i did not. before i pressed the opt to connect to a live rep i double checked the number to make sure i called my tech support line and i was correct. So i chose to speak with a rep, after talking to him he basically said the same thing you guys are saying pay 59 for two yada yada yada. but he did say i have 60 days to call him back to book it and 18 months to use it. So what im woundering is this a scam or legit. I dont work for a small company either its a nation wide company. Autozone. so what should i do? call back and pay or call my employer and report this. I guess i could just call my employer and ask if its real. the guy did say that some companys get together with there so employes can win. Whats yalls take on the situation?

  59. Rouge says:

    I dont understand how this is legal?…. How is this company sustaining itself and not being sued?

    The # that called me was 1-902-708-8306

    • Hello,

      My initial guess would be that the individual losses from this scam are not large enough to warrant prosecution, unless it was prosecuted under a racketeering statute so a pattern of criminal behavior (and true scope of the losses) could be examined. Then again, I am not a lawyer so cannot say for certain.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  60. darren says:

    I live in southern alberta and just got a call telling me i won a free cruise for two and all i had to do was complete a short survey it sounded too good to be true and was immediately suspicious.Afterwards i found this blog detailing it as a HIGH PRESSURE SALES SCAM if anyone is interested the number is19027088309

  61. Mish says:

    Exact same thing happened to me. When I asked if this is a scam, what’s the catch, she laughed and said it’s just a promotional scheme.
    When I said I will not be paying anything over the phone, she transferred me to another lady who said this is a phone only offer and u can’t pay at our office. Then she abruptly ended the call with a laugh at her other colleague.

  62. JOYce says:

    I am getting the same call every day on my house phone and when i’m at my bf’s house he get the same call from the same number. the number is 778 807-9600. The calls are getting very annoying an pissing me off.

  63. VastSky says:

    When I receive a call of this sort I simply repeatedly push the “5″ key on my phone which replays the message over from the beginning, over and again until I have keep this bot occupied for as long as I can stand it. I figure it might annoy the bots owner as much as receiving their bot call….

  64. Stef says:

    What can I do to stop those harassing phone calls? I think I must have received those calls about ten times in the last three months.

    • Hello,

      You should definitely file a complaint with your phone company and the local Better Business Bureau, as well as a report with your local police department and perhaps even your district attorney’s office (if you are in the US). As these agencies receive more reports, they will be better able to take action against the fraudsters behind this scam.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  65. FlyHigh says:

    The free Bahama cruise has been offered several times to my phone answering system. Do not press 9. Isn’t that the selection that lands you with a huge phone bill?

  66. André Guyon, Chelsea, QC, Can. says:

    Those scammers also call in Canada. The canadian laws prohibit this type of publicity. I unfortunately could not “press one” successfully to tell them. I wanted to hear them tell me who the company was, and then to file a complaint. I receive those annoying calls almost every second week, either at home or at work.

    But thanks for this Web page as it tells me what that is all about.

  67. Luis Hernandez says:

    Please read my review on Yelp! (http://www.yelp.ca/biz/caribbean-cruise-line-fort-lauderdale?hrid=3Y4HSXVfu2nsn4TYXqo2rg ). I have provided links and numbers in U.S. And Canada where you can file complaints. They’re presently being investigated by the Florida State Attorney General’s Office. I completed and sent an affidavit that I mailed to Florida to stop the robocalls from these scammers.

  68. sophie says:

    I called them three or four times but the number isn’t working.

    • Hello,

      Scammers frequently change phone numbers as the ones they use become increasingly blocked. You may have to find a new working phone number to use if you need to call them. One possible source might be the local Better Business Bureau office.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  69. QShay says:

    I’m dumb. I called then gave them my grandparents’ debit card # and then told my grandparents’ about it after I hung up with them…so my Gram called back and told them I used an unauthorized card. HOPEFULLY I get a refund back! They said they was going to charge me for fraud but my Gram told them I’m a minor so they are sending some papers in the mail for me to sign. I really f—ed the pooch with this one…ughh. I just hope everyone who falls for this like I did, gets their money back.

    • Hello,

      I strongly suggest that you have your grandparents contact their bank to dispute the charge.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

      • YU Chai says:

        I just got the called today and I payed total is almost 300 dollars. After I payed, I felt it was a cheated call. So I went to my bank immediately. My bank said they would capture my money and the money have not been transacted. But I was wondering if there is a chance I cannot get my money back?

  70. Andi says:

    my parents called their credit card company and got a call rerouted somehow to a very VERY similar cruise line scam saying they won a free cruise but they had to pay etc amount for the taxes… Also there was noise in the background sounded like people arguing etc.

  71. Rich says:

    My “free” cruise from Royal Bahama is not entirely a scam but there is enough deceptive wording and hidden charges that it verges on that. It is a cheap cruise but certainly not free.We declined the cheap hotel ($49 for two nights, some very bad reviews). Plus hotel requires time share ordeal.

    Here is my info.

    Royal Bahama Cruise Line

    3 days – 2 nights, stopping 12 hours (or 6 – 8 hours depending on who you are talking to) in Grand Bahama.

    30 – 60 days advance booking. Requested dates were guaranteed to me (except Christmas to New Years) and that was no problem (plenty of empty cabins I guess).

    $118 port fees for 2 passengers. We have an “inside cabin” (they tried to upsell me to outside).

    $99 to add a child

    Other charges (some disclosed only after paying 118):

    $12 gratuity/person/night = $72

    Parking 15 x 2 days = 30

    Fuel charge $12/day/person = $108 (“if oil is over 40 a barrel at the time of the cruise” but it appears that it is currently $99 a barrel, hasn’t been under $40 since 2003, so unless oil prices drop to less than half, this will be another additional charge but they make it sound like a maybe.)

    Drinks are another charge (except coffee or tea). I’m thinking BYOB.

    Grand Total of free cuise for 3: $427 plus drinks — cheap but not free.

    We will be sailing on the Bahama Celebration. Leaving from Palm Beach. But we have to go to Ft. Lauderdale to register/check in before cruise, 45 mins away:

    Welcome Center, Ramada Inn

    5100 North State Rd 7

    Ft. Lauderdale 33319

    Then go the pier:

    Palm Beach

    1 East 11 St.

    Riviera Beach, 33404

    Room for 4 people in cabin.

    First time I called I was on hold for 30 mins. A week later, I called the “corporate offices” number and hung up after 5 min wait. Called 1-800 number later and it was only a few mins.

    • Hello Rich,

      The scammers behind this scam seem to make changes to their “offering” based on how much publicity (news reports, BBB rating, etc.) they are receiving to something that sounds more realistic and respectable. After the heat dies down, they return to their scammy ways.

      Thanks for the update.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  72. Josh says:

    I received a Scam text saying this message here “You just earned a new warm journey on all of us telephone to get now [954=239=2302.” I knew right along that it was a Scam message because it was from a Fake email address from a fake website called Cruise Today Alerts. I researched online trying to see if others had gotten Fake text messages about being selected for a Free Cruise. The message didn’t specify where the cruise is going to, where it’s originating from, how many can come on the cruise, the price of the cruise, and the date & time of the cruise. I muted the text and deleted it.

  73. Autum says:

    I have a question for you, Aryeh. What if you get some mail informing me I’ve been identified to recieve a FREE 2 night Cruise for 2 adults in the Grand Lucayan Bahamas resort, I believe. It’s telling me to call this phone number:1-800-586-6693 and has given me a confirmation#. It also has what looks like a copy of a Boarding Pass cruise redemption voucher and says it’s issued by Holiday Cruise Line. Date issued: 05/02/14 Please give me some kind of advice. Should I just throw this away? If not and it’s real…I love to give it to my parents as a mother’s day present. But if not I’ll throw it away.

    • Hello Autum,

      A general rule-of-thumb about scams and cons is that they offer something which sounds “too good to be true.”

      Cruise lines have to pay for fuel and salaries for their employees and port fees and all sorts of other expenses, so it seems unlikely they would give away travel for free without even attempting to cover those costs, let alone make a little profit.

      Keep in mind, that just because an email or a web page (or even a piece of postal mail) looks “real” with the right logos, fonts and colors, doesn’t mean that it is legitimate. For example, it take a criminal only a few minute’s worth of effort to save the home page and login page of a bank’s web site and then edit it in order to make a phishing site.

      If you have replied to the mail, or given them a credit card number, I would recommend contacting you bank and disputing the charges. If you have not replied, well, might I suggest flowers for Mother’s Day?

      Thanks for your question!

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

  74. Choice says:

    OK I just got a voucher in the mail about the cruise before I called the number my app called call I’d identified the number and this website popped up. After reading I call led the number it was a lady I gave her my name before she could say anything else I told her that please stop sending me junk mail and that I worked for the FBI this is a scam and told her that her company is not even accredited. She proceeded to argue on the phone with me. I said even if you wasn’t a scam artist you sure as hell didn’t learn shit from school or the splendid job you have about customer service. Regardless if its a recorded line why argue with customers silly hoe!!!

  75. Alena says:

    I just got a call from this number with the same scam information (I live in Ottawa, ON)! Thank you for posting this information so that I can avoid con artists, and my heart goes out to all those who have been taken advantage of. It’s a scary world out there and as much as we all wish to believe the best of those we talk to, in this day and age it’s a gamble every time.

  76. Chantal says:

    I know this is an old article, but it looks like the best place to mention this. I looked on the BMO website this morning for the customer care number for my mastercard, and the number listed took me to a recorded message saying I’d won a 2-day free cruise to the Bahamas and a $600+ voucher to put towards a vacation package, both anytime within the next 18 months. I called another BMO number to find out what was going on and was told that their actual number (1-800-263-2263) was one digit different from the one I found on their website (1-800-236-2263). I know pure human error could have been the cause, but I find it suspicious that that particular wrong number led to a scam.

  77. techraan says:

    I just got that same call. It’s automated but it’s got a little AI going where it can even tell you it’s a live agent when you ask. I’m an old tech, so I asked it a simple Math questions. What is 4 X 2? It hung up.

  78. Amber says:

    I got a call offering a free 2 night cruise to the Bahamas if I took a short survey. I took the survey, though, the automated system had trouble getting my answers. First red flag. It said I would get a call from a liscenced travel agent within 48 hours. Not even 2 minutes later I get the call. Second red flag. I answer and this woman started in on if i’m ready she will start explaining everything. However, the loud music in the backround was rather distracting. Third red flag. She asked me what state I was from and I thought that was odd because she called from the same area code that I obtain. Fourth red flag. I then came right out and asked if it was a scam. She nervously chuckled and said “you think this is a scam because I don’t know what state you are from” I replied “exactly” she then told me to have a great day and hung up the phone. I think I’ll be put on their do not call list. Beware, things like this are almost guaranteed a scam.

  79. Susan says:

    I just received a phone call from “robo Sally” LOL. It was a 408 number and she was excited to tell me that I had just won a free cruise to the Bahamas…..as soon as I answered questions on the short survey, that is. I was given the option to press1 for the survey or press9 to be disconnected and my number would be removed from the call list. I selected the later and was disconnected.

  80. Jim says:

    Just received this call from an East Texas number: 903-751-5195. They’ve called me before but from a diffferent number.

  81. Adria says:

    Just received a call from (347) 213-0595 and they told me, “CONGRATULATIONS ! You won a free cruise for two to the Bahamas ! Just take a survey …” And I stupidly took it. I was asked between 5-7 questions regarding politics, health care, legalization of marijuana , etc. Automated voice said an agent would call me to book my trip. I realized this is BS. No agent has called.

    I’m nervous that this was a ploy to use my phone number to like crack into my phone or something ?! Is that possible?! Bc my banking info is on my phone (via apps)… I wish I didn’t take that survey ;(

    • Hello Adria,

      I have not heard of any smartphone hacking via this scam, which seems largely based on tricking you into giving them your credit card details. If a scammer asks you to install an app or visit a web site from your phone, I would not recommend doing so.

      Regards,

      Aryeh Goretsky

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