RCSD: Vacation packages were a scam

cwinston@thestate.comMay 5, 2014 

— A summer vacation package that seemed too good to be true was a scam, Richland County deputies are warning.

Seven couples arrived at a Two Notch Road hotel in early April to claim a free trip. Once they arrived, they received a sales pitch on a vacation package similar to a timeshare presentation.

Several victims signed up for the vacation packages and paid between $3,000 and $5,000 with checks and credit cards. The travel agent directors — Bill Ferrell and Angelique Merrell — collected the money and the signed contracts. The scammers, using the name Great Getaway Concierge LLC, cashed some of the checks but are now unreachable.

There are suspects: Ferrell, a white male, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and dark hair; Merrell, a white female, 5-foot-5, 125 pounds, with blonde curly long hair; and Fernando Gutierrez. If you have been a victim or know anyone who may have been a victim of this scam, contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Ferrell and Merrell have also scammed victims in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. They are not licensed to sell any products in South Carolina and did so illegally.

Sheriff Leon Lott provided these tips to avoid become a victim:

Do not make quick decisions on the spot

Do not feel pressured to give up your hard earned cash

Do not give them any information such as credit card, checking account, driver’s license, or social security until you are sure they are who they say they are.

Do not assume a friendly voice belongs to a friend.

If you are interested in what they are selling have them send you information forms to be verified

Have the caller give you their information, address and phone number and then verify who they are through the Better Business Bureau or South Carolina Advocates Office or National Fraud Center @ 1-800-876-7060.

Do not be intimidated by sales people; you have rights.

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