FTC Snares Telemarketers in Operation Trip Trap

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The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that it has filed complaints against five direct marketing companies as part of Operation Trip Trap, a crackdown on firms that use fraudulent telemarketing and other deceptive means to market travel packages. The companies are accused of misleading consumers during high-pressure sales calls about the costs of vacation packages, travel restrictions and types of accommodations involved, among other things.

In three of the cases, against American International Travel Services, Air-Land-Sea Reservations Inc. and Resort World Inc., the FTC is seeking a restraining order, asset freeze, appointment of a receiver and immediate access to the business premises, pending a hearing for preliminary injunction. In the other two cases, against Cervenick-Anderson Travel and All Around Travel Club, the FTC is seeking a preliminary injunction, pending resolution of the complaints.

The companies are accused of violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

In addition to those complaints, Operation Trip Trap also involved the announcement of 47 state actions against 25 companies and two restitution orders filed on behalf of the Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the state actions.

The crackdown was prompted by an increase in consumer complaints about deceptive vacation offers, the FTC said. Complaints about vacation offers have entered the top 10 categories of reports to the FTC by consumers.

Operation Trip Trap also includes two new educational publications concerning travel fraud. "Facts for Consumers: Telemarketing and Travel Fraud" contains information about how telemarketers obtain consumers' names and describes marketing techniques. The other publication, "Avoid a School Break Bust," offers advice for students and their parents to avoid vacation travel scams.

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