By Bob Purvis
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Communication junior Christine Tomeo (left) and communication junior Jessica Shafer burn a copy of their confirmation letter for a hotel in Mexico, while political science junior Erin Sullivan and communication junior Vicky Boyle look on.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday March 27, 2003
Vicky Boyle arrived in Rocky Point hoping to sip margaritas on the beach and catch a little sun outside her beachfront hotel. She found the beach and even the margaritas, but the hotel was a different story.
When Boyle, a communication junior, and three of her friends arrived at the Hotel Seľorial, the concierge told them there weren't any reservations in their names.
He told Boyle and her friends that they were among a dozen students who said they had made phone reservations with hotelsinrockypoint.com and that their hotel didn't deal with that company.
In a signed statement, the Hotel Seľorial wrote, "We have no knowledge of this company. We have no validation of accommodations through this company, or of many students, including Vicky Boyle, who confirmed through hotelsinrockypoint.com."
Boyle and her friends were forced to cough up another $400 for a rundown hotel for their four-day stay in Mexico. But they don't know what happened to the money they paid to hotelsinrockypoint.com.
"The second we got back, I called the number, and it was no longer in service," Boyle said. "Right then, I just knew I had been scammed."
Boyle said she found an advertisement in the Arizona Daily Wildcat about two weeks before spring break that promised sandy beaches and a luxury hotel.
She initially made a $100 deposit over the phone, and then later paid the remaining $300 over the phone by giving a female receptionist her checking account information.
After she received an e-mail confirmation for a two-bedroom hotel room, she never even considered the reservation was fraud.
"It all just looked so professional. I never thought there was anything weird going on," Boyle said.
When she returned to Tucson, Boyle contacted the Better Business Bureau and the police department. She said police told her that there was little she could do unless others came forward.
"Four twenty-year-old girls do not need to be stranded in Mexico over night," Boyle said. "If we hadn't found another room, I don't know what we would have done."
Michael Glem, branch manager of STA Travel in the Student Union Memorial Center said scams like these are an annual occurrence on college campuses.
"People come to me every year saying, ╬I can go to Cancun for only $400,' when the cheapest we offer it is $800," he said. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
Glem said that there are several steps students can take to protect themselves against scams. Among those, he said, students should go through a reputable travel agent and avoid bargain prices that appear to be extremely low.
Students can also check with the Better Business Bureau and talk to other students who have had good travel plans in the past before they book a trip.
"There are always going to be those fly-by-night companies," Glem said.
Claims of similar scams have been reported by students at ASU, where a student was forced to sleep in the back of a pickup truck after a travel agent turned out to be illegitimate.
The e-mail account of both hotelsinrockypoint.com and the Web site where the ASU student went were registered under the same name. When Boyle attempted to contact the domain owner under the number he had listed, she found that the number was also no longer in service. The Web site is currently under construction.
Boyle's case remains open and any students who underwent similar scams are urged to contact the Tucson Police Department.