RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper joined with law enforcement officials from around the world Thursday as part of a multi-national bust of travel scammers, including one scheme operating out of North Carolina.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission conducted an international sweep that included 190 actions taken by 28 states and eight other countries. The actions include a lawsuit filed by Cooper's office against Smart Travel & Incentives, Millennium Travel and Promotions, A-2-Z Vacations, East Coast Travel and their principals.
"We're joining with our consumer protection partners around the world to send travel scammers packing," Cooper said in a statement. "Don't let your enthusiasm for a good deal on a summer vacation lead you to fall for a travel scam."
Cooper alleged East Coast Travel sent mailers to consumers claiming they were selected to receive a cruise or two roundtrip airline tickets. To claim the prize, consumers had to attend a travel presentation, which was allegedly a high-pressure sales pitch for the travel club A-2-Z Vacations. The pitch allegedly misrepresented the company's credentials and partners, as well as the amount of money the club could save consumers on travel.
Consumers who complained to Cooper's Consumer Protection Division alleged they were able to get better discounts on their own than the ones provided through the travel club. Individuals awarded the free vacation certificates, which were provided by Millennium Travel and Smart Travel, alleged the vouchers were almost impossible to redeem and required a deposit.
Cooper's office received 13 complaints from consumers who allegedly paid between $2,600 and $6,600 for the travel club membership.
The attorney general alleges violations of consumer protection and discount buying club laws. His lawsuit requests that the court ban the defendants from operating similar schemes in the state, provide cancellation of all travel club contracts signed by North Carolinians and give refunds to consumers.
"A trip isn't really free if you have to buy something to get it," Cooper said. "Be skeptical of anyone who uses a so-called prize or gift to try to lure you into buying a travel club membership that probably won't live up to your expectations."