Win a free cruise! One little catch: The cruise line is out of business

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Scam alert: If you get a phone call saying that you'll get a free Caribbean cruise just for taking part in a brief survey, it's probably best to hang up.

David Lazarus, a columnist for the LA Times, reports how he just recently received such a phone call. The survey began with some odd questions, such as "Do you speak Spanish?" and "Do you have a septic system or a sewer system?"

After being steered to a website, Lazarus eventually finds his name (misspelled), and a notice congratulating him for the free cruise aboard the Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines' Regal Empress.

Here's the complication:

A little more digging revealed that Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines went bust last year.

The Regal Empress, built in 1953, was subsequently sold for scrap, according to Maritime Matters, a cruise-industry news site. Its steel carcass is now rusting on some beach in India.

So what, exactly, is the scam, besides wasting your time with a pointless survey? Apparently, that would come later, when a "cruise coordinator" would have called up Lazarus had he continued with the hustle:

Other people who have taken the survey say online that I'll be asked at some point for a credit card number to confirm the booking.

Or I'll be told that a free cabin isn't available on the dates I want to travel, but I can upgrade to an available room for a modest fee.

Or I'll have to send in a refundable check for a few hundred dollars to secure my booking.

You get the idea.

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