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Money-making and free offer scams are nothing new, but the web sure has aided their proliferation. And why do they continue? Because otherwise sane, intelligent people keep falling for them, and probably always will.

Conde Nast Travelers consumer advocate has yet another example: the old ‘you’ve won a free cruise’ gambit.

Let me cut to the chase – the free cruise really is not free.

But here’s how this scam and others like it work.

You receive a large, glitzy, colorful piece of mail or a seductive email telling you that you’ve won a free cruise, or trip, and all you have to do to claim your prize is call a phone number.  Calling the phone number will connect you to a well-trained salesperson who will invite you to a presentation of some sort, usually for a time-share.

But let’s say you resist the phone sales pitch. “Even if you don’t fall for the pitch, redeeming the “free” cruise will be tricky, because the company will add fees and restrictions to the point where you’ll pay more for the “free” vacation than if you’d just booked it through your favorite travel agent.”

Such scamming is against the law, but scammers are sly and resourceful, so when one company is forced to close up shop, another pops up under another corporate name.  It’s not difficult to do.

When offers for free anything come in the mail, or into your email box throw them in the trash or hit delete, it’ll be great exercise.

Photo: Roger Wollstadt via Flickr

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