Punta Cana is undoubtedly the top Dominican Republic destination, attracting countless travelers in search of an idyllic Caribbean retreat.
However, just like any other tourist hotspot, Punta Cana has its fair share of scams and tourist traps that travelers should be cautious of.
Beyond the common street scams tourists are prone to falling victim to, a more nefarious, high-pressure type of scam lurks: vacation packages scams.
Of course, not all vacation packages are necessarily fraudulent, and some do offer excellent value.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, as evidenced by Summer Edeen’s experience. An American tourist visiting Punta Cana with her boyfriend, she fell victim to such a scam, which she recounted in a TikTok video that became viral and even made the headlines.
Unmasking The Vacation Package Scam
According to the video, Edeen and her boyfriend attended a one-hour seminar in exchange for a promised gift card for massages.
After the presentation, they were offered drinks and introduced to vacation packages from a company called UVC, with options such as silver, gold, and platinum tiers.
Interested in the platinum package, which cost $30,000, they negotiated the price down to $17,000.
However, Edeen later discovered numerous complaints about UVC, with people warning against its services.
The company has faced over 350 complaints on the Complaints Board, with allegations of misleading presentations, high costs, and difficulties in canceling memberships.
One of the complaints stated that the seminar from the company lasted more than four hours, and they were also pressured to buy a $15,000 package after receiving free drinks.
They were also required to pay an additional $500 a month, and they only got a measly 25% discount on their hotel – even though it was supposed to be all-inclusive.
Furthermore, the company is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and while it does have some positive feedback, the high number of complaints doesn’t exactly help the company’s dubious reputation.
How The Vacation Package Scam Works
It might seem tempting to dismiss Edeen as gullible, believing that these scammers would have no chance of fooling you.
After all, you can simply turn the offer down after the one-hour presentation, get your freebies, and evacuate the premises.
But just as Edeen and her boyfriend learned the hard way, these scammers have a knack for manipulation that can catch the savviest of travelers off guard.
Despite being skeptical of all the supposed perks they were promised and understandably suspicious after seeing the contract was written in Spanish, the scammer effectively swayed them into purchasing the package.
So, how exactly do these scams actually work?
The ultimate goal of these salespeople is to dismantle your defenses. First, they showcase pictures of luxurious resorts and offer free vacations and tantalizing discounts, all while insisting that the offer is time-limited, coercing you to act quickly.
But then, they shift gears, employing high-pressure social engineering tactics such as stretching short presentations into hours, having you wait for long periods of time between presentations, and introducing you to several salespeople.
By the end of the presentation, you’re likely to sign your soul away just to escape the ordeal and preserve your sanity – and that’s exactly the idea.
How To Handle Vacation Package Presentations
Here are some tips that will help you avoid these types of travel scams on your next Punta Cana vacation.
Do Your Research
Before attending a presentation, research the company that is offering the package. Look for reviews, and search the company name along with the words ‘scam’ or ‘complaint.’
Don’t Make Quick Decisions
Salespeople pressuring you into buying the package right away is a huge red flag. So, avoid acting on impulse or under pressure, and take your time to make the right choice.
After all, you’re about to spend a lot of your hard-earned cash, potentially for decades.
Read Before You Sign
Make sure to get all the nitty-gritty details in writing and take some time to study the paperwork. Ask for a copy of the company’s cancellation and refund policies.
After the presentation, take all the documents with you and review them on your own before signing anything or putting down payments.
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