Over 100 dance students from Tennessee were allegedly scammed in a fake Disney World vacation scheme recently. The students and their families paid more than $60,000 collectively to take a trip to Disney World and attend classes at the world-renowned Disney Performing Arts program.
When the passengers arrived at their destination, however, the shuttles provided by the travel agency didn’t work, no rooms were booked and no Disney World vacation was waiting. An amazing vacation to remember became an expensive disappointment.
Let’s take a look at what allegedly happened on this unfortunate trip to the Magic Kingdom.
A Trip to Disney World That Never Was
The dance school booked the trip for their students through a travel agency called Blue Sky Journeys, which claims to be a Disney-authorized agency. Yahoo! Shine reports that the agency allegedly scammed the group out of more than $60,000 and failed to make the agreed-upon travel arrangements. The trip was booked since August 2012.
Here’s what happened so far, from Yahoo! Shine:
Earlier this month, agency owner Melanie Swoap and her husband John Swoap were indicted on the charge—of stealing between $60,000 and $250,000, according to Nashville Scene—by a Williamson County grand jury. If convicted, they face eight to 12 years in prison.”
The alleged scam doesn’t end there. District Attorney Kim Helper said that John Swoap tried to deposit the checks twice — once electronically, then in person — and faces additional charges.
When the children and families arrived in Orlando, they had no reservations. Instead, the parents provided credit cards to book rooms on the spot and the trip went on as planned.
Fortunately, the dancers were still able to take classes through the Disney Performing Arts program. The dance program, called the Ann Carroll Dancers, published a glowing review of their trip. Dancers took ballet, tap, and jazz classes and practiced audition techniques through a workshop program called “Disney Magic”.
While these dancers were able to make the best of the situation despite the alleged travel agency scam, their lesson is something we all should learn from. It’s important to be thorough and skeptical when making any payments. Always do your research.
Avoid Getting Scammed
While these dancers were able to make the best of the situation despite the alleged travel agency scam, their lesson is something we all should learn from. When you make any travel arrangements, verify the legitimacy of the agency before handing any money over.
If you ever plan on using a travel agency, never use cash. Use a form of payment that has a record like credit. Using credit protects you in ways checks and cash simply don’t.
Since there are advantages to using smaller, specialized travel agencies, keep an eye out for a few things if you use them. Len Testa, co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, tells Yahoo! to see how long the agency has been in business.
Do they host meets? Are they active on discussion boards? Do they host conferences? Since small agencies will have invested in some sort of social media presence, it’s unlikely that they will throw it all away for $60,000.
Have You Ever Been A Victim?
Any travel horror stories? Share your experience with Scambook and leave a comment below.