From time to time, we hear about different Canary Island scams, that target tourists on holiday. The worst scams are the ones where people have lost their life-long savings or still worse, have asked for a loan from the bank to pay for what turns out to be a scam. We have collected practical information of what you can do to avoid being scammed while on
1) You will find them only in the main streets of tourist areas, very rarely in residential cities where locals live.
2) He/She will speak your language pefectly and most probably even be from your country. They will tell you that they work for the Tourist Board or the Canary Islands Government.
3) You will be given a gift card, that requires you to scratch it, and surprise! You won!
4) To claim your prize you will be requested to go to the “company” office (with a free taxi), where you will be invited to listen to a presentation, that can last as long as 8 hours. In this presentation, you will be brainwashed about the product or service they want to sell to you.
5) You will be requested to sign a contract and leave a deposit, to lock-in the once-in-a-lifetime offer, e.g. 2000 Euros, which will be taken from your credit card. If you don’t have the credit cards on you, you will be offered a free taxi to your hotel by one of the reps, who will accompany you, to pick up the cards.
6) When you want to use the product/service, you find out it doesn’t exist and that is when you find out that you have been scammed.
Tom Smulders is a Dutchman who has been living in Gran Canaria since many years. He is the president of the Tourism Security commission of the FEHT, which is the association of hotels, bars, and restaurants of Las Palmas province (includes Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote). He is also the president of the local apartment owners’ association. Tom feels that the only way to stop the scammers is to ban anyone from approaching (and bothering) tourists.
Since many years, Tom (and the organizations he represents), the tour operators that bring the tourists, the Spanish national police, and the Spanish and European consumer organizations, have all been warning about the touts who harrass the tourists during their holiday, trying to sell them different products or services. They recommend to be careful when approached on the street corners. They are pushing for legal coordination at a European level, which will be happening soon.
Unfortunately, the authorities (police, Town Halls, Gran Canaria and Tenerife government, the Canary Islands Autonomous goverment) have done little (or nothing at all) to solve the problem so far. The scammers use legal loopholes to avoid prosecution. No one has done much although there have been complaints from tourist directly, the hotels where they live, tour operators, or consumer organizations of the tourists’ respective countries.
No one did much till the end of July 2013. This is when the national police all of a sudden started to act against the scammers, and no, they didn’t act on their own. A watchdog organization called Mindtimeshare collected solid evidence of the scams and gave it to the police. They also took legal action on behalf of the people who got cheated. In this case the scam was promoting a luxury discount travel membership club, where you would get huge discounts for future vacations you booked through them. According to the police, what the tourists didn’t know is that anyone who goes to any travel agency would also get the same offers, so what was really being sold was a product that was totally useless.
If you have any doubt about any company that calls you at home to sell your timeshare for you, or approaches you while on vacation, you can contact Mindtimeshare and they will quickly let you know if it is a genuine offer or not. They also publish a list of “suspicious” companies, which is updated monthly. Here’s a list of 8 tips they give on their website, to avoid being ripped off:
1) Do a background check of the company, before agreeing to anything.
2) Get full details of the offer terms, agreement, cancellation policy, etc. in writing
3) Check out the company by contacting Mindtimeshare
4) Avoid companies that want a deposit beforehand. This is not legal.
5) Make sure that the company is registered.
6) If the company guarantees a success, be extra careful, and check out internet forums.
7) If the sales rep tries to rush you to sign, stop immediately and do some research.
8) Check out the Mindtimeshare cold callers list and blog.