Free Trip: International Waters Fee

How the scam works:

You’re performing your daily routines and the phone rings in your pocket or purse. An automated voice delivers a message. “You only have to answer to a two-question survey today in order to get your name in a draw for a free 7-day trip to Hawaii”.

You have a minute to play, so you answer the two-question survey by pressing ‘1’ or ‘2’ for ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. The questions could be as simple as “Are you happy with the health system in our country?” or “Are you satisfied with your job?”

Just when you almost forget about this experience, you receive a phone call from a real person, most likely two days later. “Hi, this is Danny, from Amazing Getaways (or another real legitimate business name). You responded to a survey from our company in the past and I was notified by our system that you are the winner of the free trip to Hawaii. Congratulations! You’re gonna take me with you, right?”, says the caller.

It sounds exciting. He proceeds confirming that your flight and hotels are taken care of, as well as going over the itinerary. “As we promised, you and you partner will have a king size room at Holiday Inn, while our airline partner United Airways will provide the flights. No strings, no gimmicks. You’re truly going to have an amazing time. We will also take you for a two-day yacht experience in the ocean around Hawaii, visiting the neighbouring islands and meeting indigenous tribes”.

‘Danny’ continues: “This is really the backbone of our trip. It’s going to be magnificent. I was on that yacht during last year’s trip. I am so jealous of you.”

Well, everything sounds great and you’re starting confirming with the caller some dates for this trip, your full name, your partner’s, and a few other minor details you should know. “Your commitment, he says, is to have fun first, but also to make sure you have all the paperwork done right. The only thing we will need you to do refers to the yacht trip. Since you are going to float in international waters every single person has to pay a $39.99 international waters fee. It’s mandatory as it has to be paid individually by people who will be on that yacht. I was required to do it last year as well. Other than that, everything is covered so… have fun!”

Here is the trick. ‘Danny’ will ask you to pay the international waters fee over the phone. Excited that they might get a once in a lifetime trip for only $39.99, many people fall victim by giving access to their credit cards. Once they do that, the card is maxed out almost immediately. Scammers are very good at what they do and have an answer for every concern raised.

How to avoid:

Free trips like that never happen. Especially over the phone. Tell the caller you’re going to phone him back once you talk to your partner about dates or fees. Even if he provides you a phone number, what you should do is to call or research the company whose name he gave you. If it’s a legitimate business, call the number on their actual website and they will definitely let you know that they had no trip giveaways or there is no Danny working there. However, the first and most important rule is to never give your credit card numbers over the phone.

How to report:

Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) using the link below:

Report To The FTC Here


How to protect yourself more:

If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You’ll receive periodical emails and we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.


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selma hrynchuk
Selma HrynchukSelma is a fraud prevention specialist renowned for her expertise in private eye investigations and a remarkable partnership with law enforcement agencies. Beyond her investigative triumphs, her public speaking engagements and written works have empowered countless individuals to protect themselves and stay ahead of deceptive schemes. Selma's legacy shines as a tenacious agent of change, unyielding in her commitment to battling fraud and ensuring a safer world for all.

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