“In celebration of our new year packages we’ve selected you to receive 2 round trip airfares to anywhere in the contiguous United States —good for the next 12 months!”
But, not really.
Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning about Austin-based Platinum Travel Network’s deceptive post cards. Consumers allege they receive post cards with the American Airlines or another well-known airline’s logo telling them they won two free tickets.
However, when consumers contact the number on the post card, they are asked three “qualifying” questions, like “Are you single or married?” Those who “qualify” are invited to attend a 90-minute presentation in exchange for the airline tickets.
More than a dozen consumers have filed complaints against Platinum Travel Network, many alleging they were subjected to high-pressure sales tactics after attending the presentation. Some alleged they felt misled by the post card and the company did not provide the promised tickets.
In addition, despite the post card’s claim that the tickets are good for anywhere in the contiguous United States, the company told a BBB investigator that was a mistake. The tickets are really only available to certain cities.
BBB contacted the company about its misleading claims as well as the use of the American Airlines logo, which leads consumers to believe the offer is associated with the airline. The company did not respond to that letter.
BBB advises consumers to be wary of any letters, emails or phone calls claiming they have won a prize, especially if the consumer does not remember entering a contest. Often, these are scams meant to steal money or personal information.
To help consumers identify a sweepstakes scam, BBB provides the following:
- Are you asked to make a purchase in order to get your prize? According to the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, if you have won something, you should not have to pay a penny or purchase anything to receive it.
- Are you asked to wire money? Many times scammers will instruct you to wire money to cover the fees, such as processing, administrative or tax fees, before you receive your prize. Once you’ve wired money there is very little chance of getting that money back.
- Be cautious of look-alikes. Scammers often use names of government agencies and well-known organizations to try to confuse you and give you confidence in the winnings claim.
- Did you receive this notification via bulk rate mail? According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is highly unlikely that you’ve won a big prize if your notification was sent by bulk rate.
Edit: DallasBBB just completed a comprehensive study explaining the complicated web of companies involved in travel club schemes. It makes for an interesting read.