Scam Alert in Windsor [WFSB Channel 3]

May 17, 2011


I saw this news report about a scam based out of the Windsor area and wanted to make you aware of it.

May 16 report from WFSB – Channel 3:

An I-Team investigation found that a Windsor-based travel club, which calls itself Travel Deals, is nothing but a scam.

The I-Team’s investigation into Travel Deals, which promises cut-rate travel for anyone who joins their club, began with Mark Pivin.

He went to the company’s Windsor office several weeks ago because the deal it was offering sounded promising.

“I nudged my wife and said ‘Honey, that’s an unbelievable good price,” Pivin said.

Pivin and his wife attended a Travel Deals seminar with seven other couples at the company office in Windsor. He said the company offered examples like a trip to South Africa for just $1,200, a fraction of the rate Pivin was quoted by a regular travel agent when he looked into the same trip months before.

“You could do one trip and pay for the membership in the club,” Pivin said.

But in order to get travel deals, customers must pay a one-time charge of $8,995. Pivin said he wanted time to think about it, and was told that was against the rules. He had to pay up-front before leaving the building, he said

Pivin said he declined, but still wanted the free cruise and free airline tickets he was promised just for listening to the seminar. He said he was handed a form and in the fine print found his free cruise required him to first send a money order for $500.

“At that point, I figured, this is nothing but a scam. I’d been taken. I didn’t really get anything for attending the seminar, which was promised me,” he said.

Pivin said after the seminar he went to the Better Business Bureau a day later to investigate Travel Deals. He brought the paperwork from the free trips he was offered.

“The number that I was supposed to call on that particular parting gift was a known as a scam number used years ago in New Jersey. (The agency) said I was very, very lucky that I had not done business with this firm,” Pivin said.

In fact, not only is does the state agency call Travel Deals a scam, it gave the company an “F” rating.

After the I-Team talked to Pivin, it began digging into Travel Deals.

According to the scam, one is not allowed in their seminars without a postcard and until a customer’s name is verified on their list. It won’t tell customers where a meeting is held. But the I-Team found them at an office park in Windsor. Their appointments tend to be Tuesday evenings.

But once the I-Team’s camera was inside the office, men physically threw the I-Team out of the building.

For more than an hour, the I-Team waited outside, hoping someone from the company would come give us their side of the story, but the only employee who came outside had little to say.

“ I have got no comment. You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.

The company called the police, but Windsor police did not throw the I-Team off the property/

The I-Team spoke with about eight couples who had just finished hearing the Travel Deals’ sales pitch. None paid the $9,000, but most said they thought about it.

“We just don’t really have the money. I’m not going to max out my credit card at $9,000. They don’t have any financing, they want you to pay cash or put it on a card,” said Katelyn Waite, who attended the seminar with her husband, Dave.

Jen Chapin who came from Massachusetts looking for a travel bargain at the seminar was furious when the I-Team told her about Travel Deals’ “F” rating.

Several hours later, the I-Team received a call from Todd Livingston, who said he was Travel Deals manager and that he was calling from Washington, D.C. He said he was suing the Better Business Bureau, then later admitted no lawsuit had been filed.

Livingston said the $9,000 membership allowed entry into a “wonderful program” and he insisted that members save big money.

He also told the I-Team that the company is willing to return the fee to anyone who is unhappy, but when the I-Team pushed him on that promise, Livingston said requests for refunds would actually be considered on a case-by-case basis. He also criticized the I-Team’s investigation, saying since the people we talked to didn’t actually pay, they didn’t know what they were missing.

“People can say they think this, and they think that. They don’t know. We’ve never had a single complaint from a member,” Livingston said.

The Better Business Bureau put the I-Team in touch with people in Connecticut and in New Jersey who bought a membership and claim they were scammed.

The state Department of Consumer Protection has received a complaint from someone claiming they bought a Travel Deals membership. The state agency said Travel Deals is not licensed to do business in the state of Connecticut and that it is sending a letter to Travel Deals at their New Jersey address to find out what they’ve been up to in Connecticut. .

The state agency wants to hear from other unhappy members. Click here to access a form at the state Department of Consumer Protection