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On the Net, Nobody Knows You’re a Dogno - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut         back to TTN home page
by Joe Harkins - Jul 15, 98

EDIT UPDATE: Sometime after this column was published in newspapers across the country, we received nasty personal threats from the con men mentioned in it. It is not a good idea to threaten journalists for telling the truth. The web sites of thos scum are now shut down. Unfortunately, they are often like roaches. They hide from the light and then reappear later. These people may be operating under different names so just be aware that they probably are still vermin. Now, here's the column that got them foaming at the mouth . . .

    Fraud is big business and the Internet is a scam-artist’s dream.

    The speed and low cost with which anyone can build and publish a web page are just two factors. Because there is not (and I hope never will be) an oversight agency that controls web page content, a web page can pretty much say anything anyone wants it to.

    Then there’s anonymity. A New Yorker Magazine cartoon that’s pinned to the wall in many a web site builder’s cubicle shows a dog sitting at a computer keyboard. As he types, he comments over his shoulder, "On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog."

    Most travel web sites are honest and provide genuine value and service but a few are dogs. Collaring them requires using your common sense and the tools of the web itself.

    How do you know that handsome web site inviting you to register for "Free Travel!!" is legit? Well, for starters, anyone who even sniffs at that bone is already in trouble.

    Oh, you think you are too smart to fall? How about this, copied and pasted from a web page? "Kosmas Resort Group, Inc. . . . is truly a family-run company. Nor does it take long to realize that this is no ordinary family. Brothers Nick, Paul, and Steven enjoy the closeness of a family and that spirit spills over to their customers and owners. In short, at KRG resorts, everyone is treated like family."

    Or this from NetEscapes another web site owned by the same KRG outfit?

" . . . Win a free vacation for you and your family.. The Grand Prize, Including Roundtrip Airfare, a Luxury Cruise, First Class Accommodations and So Much More . . . Simply Fill Out the Form".

    Go ahead. Fill it out. But first, maybe you should read this from the Attorney General of the State of New York " . . . Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco today announced nearly $300,000 in refunds for over 500 New Yorkers -- from Buffalo to Brooklyn -- who were duped into enduring high-pressure sales pitches by a company that promised inexpensive luxury vacations. Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Helen E. Friedman ordered the refunds to be paid by Florida-based Promotional Travel and its owners, Paul, Nicholas and Steve Kosmas."

    As a search on the exact phrase "Promotional Travel" confirms, it too still has offices open and doing business. And they certainly aren’t the only company that paid a fine out of petty cash but continues in business, offering bait to the unwary.

    Only last month, a travel newsgroup message asked if anyone has ever heard of Ultima Systems, a "travel club" that promises big discounts. 15 seconds after asking my search engine, I had a report published by Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. His office, "...reached agreements with Ultima Systems, Inc., a Washington corporation, and Ultima Systems of Arizona, L.L.C. The companies told consumers that membership in their travel club would result in 75% savings on travel, but failed to provide the promised discounts."

    And, of course, no one, yours truly JoeTravel included, would dare suggest that the Brothers Kosmas, or Ultima Systems any one else ever nailed by a State’s Attorney for fraud or deceptive practice, hasn’t changed their ways. They well may have.

    As it says at the bottom of that NetEscape entry-form that asks for your phone number, income, marital status, the email addresses of five of your friends and details of your personal lifestyle, "Good Luck."

-30-

(note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the  available space in this week's edition.)


PS - Since the above column was published, Kosmas Group has sold some of the above named properties to new owners and acquired Cape Canaveral Cruise Lines. At CCCL, Kosmas continues using the same slimy, "Congratulaions! You've won a sweepstakes. Give me your credit card number so we can process your prize" tactics as with the other properties.

I don't have updated info on how the new owners are handling those other properties but I urge you to use common sense in dealing with anyone who calls you on the phone with a sales  pitch based on a sweepstakes.


Ask the experts:

Armchair World
Here's some practical advice on how to recognize a scam. While you are on this page, follow the link to "More General Information"

Best Fares - Scam Watch
Good advice from a reputable discount travel supplier.

National Fraud Information Center
A toll-free hotline for reporting tele-marketing fraud. Sometimes even a Big Brother is a handy guy to have around.

National Consumers League
The nation's oldest consumer advocacy group.

F T C Fraud Alert
What to do when you suspect fraud.


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