Last November, I got an interesting letter in the mail. It had no return address, which I always consider a little fishy.
I opened it up to find that US Airlines has given me two free tickets to fly anywhere in the United States. You can see the letter here, but I'll quote it for those not interest in the click:
Note: You must respond no later than December 1st, 2014
I am pleased to inform you that you have qualified for an award of 2 round-trip airline tickets. Congratulations! These tickets are valid for travel anywhere in the continental U.S. from any major international airport. The retail value of this award is $1,375.00. Certain restrictions apply.
We have attempted to contact you several times without success. This is our final attempt. If we do not hear from you soon, we may need to issue the ticket vouchers to the alternate.
Please call me today at 1-877-741-7882.
Customer Relations Manager
I have to give credit to my wife who knew it was a scam, even before I did. She pointed out that US Airlines doesn't exist. It's a mash-up of US Air and American Airlines.
It turns out that this is actually well-covered territory in the scam world. Even US Air warns about it at the bottom here.
I found one local news team who followed up on it. Here are a few excerpts from their story:
No one had actually called the number on the letter, so News 8’s Brian Roche did. He spoke to a woman named Dusty who would only tell me she worked for a marketing firm in Arizona...
She told him the tickets were not free, they were complimentary, as long as he went to a presentation for a travel agency...
Dusty made an appointment for Roche to attend the presentation at 52 Grumbacher Road in York. So News 8 went to the address and found an empty parking lot and an unmarked building...
News 8 learned that anyone responding to this would get the same sales pitch to attend a presentation at the address in York. One viewer who did attend told News 8 that she and her husband were asked to join a travel club and pay more than $11,000. As they tried to leave, the price dropped below $1,500...
While it may be easy to call this a scam, News 8 is going to stop just short of that. What it really seems to be is a promotional campaign designed to get people to join a travel club....
The most surprising thing of the article is how News 8 stops short at calling this a scam. I'm sure their lawyers told them that they should play it safe.
Seriously though... they invented an airline that doesn't exist! They are wording the letter like a prize announcement ("Congratulations!") They neglect any mention of a required sales pitch or a vacation club! They push you to act right away for fear that you'll miss out on the (non-existent) "prize." They send people to an empty parking lot and an unmarked building and ask people to pay $11,000 for something only to drop it to below $1,500.
It is a scam according to every definition of scam that I've ever read. Usually the definition centers around a confidence game, and that is clearly what "US Airlines" is using here. It's sad that I have to refer to them as US Airlines, because there isn't information on what the real vacation club name is.
P.S. I have to give credit to this guy on YouTube who called up the company to call them out on the scam:
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