The Sun Sentinel reports that Florida charged travel agencies in the state with using unlicensed agents to sell bogus trip insurance policies through a company called Prime Travel Protection Services, of Colorado. Prime Travel, which apparently was never authorized to do business in Florida, went out of business in 2009 and is in liquidation. Hundreds of Florida travelers were left with unpaid claims.
Many of the consumers bought the policies before going on cruises. Obtaining valid insurance for cruise vacations is a prudent thing which we recommend cruise passengers consider before cruising.
Prime Travel claimed that it offered "trip protection" and not travel insurance, which must be approved by regulators and underwritten to ensure claims will be covered. The consumers who bought the bogus policies had no recourse when their claims were not paid.
The state warned the agencies to stop selling unauthorized insurance or face penalties including a $50,000 fine. The newspaper reports that the six agencies cited this week offered policies through Prime Travel or its affiliates. They agencies include:
According to the Sun Sentinel, the agencies charges include JB Travel Inc. of Boynton Beach, St. Lucie West Travel of Port St. Lucie, Ahoy Cruises of Jacksonville, Diana's Travel South of Spring Hill, Sandra Demore / CruiseWithSandy of Port Orange, and Four Seasons Tours and Cruises of Largo.
The newspaper also reports that in the past year, state officials cited additional agencies for similar problems. One of the agencies, Palm Coast Travel of Lake Worth and its affiliate Smartcruiser.com, were charged with initially giving travelers AccessAmerica trip insurance policies, then transferring customers to companies not authorized in Florida to offer coverage - including Prime Travel.
When the media began reporting on the bogus policies last year, Palm Coast Travel filed a defamation lawsuit against one of the aggrieved consumers who complained, as well as veteran travel writer, Christopher Elliott, who covered what appears to be a scam in his widely respected travel website "Elliott."
Suing travel writers for uncovering consumer fraud stories appears, in my opinion, to be retaliatory in nature and counter-productive. Mr. Elliott was ahead of this story in 2008 when he warned consumers of the Prime Travel policies in an article "A Travel Insurance Mystery: Who is Prime Travel Protection Services?"
Mr. Elliott indicates that he made a public records request for information regarding the state of Florida’s case against Palm Coast Travel, and will release the information on his website. This will be interesting reading.
If you are considering buying travel insurance, consider reading:"6 Tips to Avoid Travel Insurance Scams."