Many Washingtonians, especially in the Seattle area, have notified the AGO that they have received postcards promising complimentary flights and discounted travel. After further investigation, the AGO has found that the postcards offer nothing more than overpriced access to common, easily-accessible travel agency memberships.First seen in the 1990s, these “travel club” middlemen contact consumers through mail, over the phone, or online in hopes of luring consumers to call a toll-free number and use a promo code provided in the initial contact.
After asking a series of questions to “check eligibility”, the salesmen then invite you to attend a seminar, where they relentlessly sell you and other attendees memberships to their “travel club.” These memberships may cost thousands of dollars. Essentially, the actual travel-agency membership costs the middlemen only a few hundred dollars.
And what about their promise of free airline tickets? These deceptive travel club middlemen often offer free flights in the initial contact in order to catch consumers’ attention. Furthermore, they artfully imply they are associated with an established and well-known corporation—in this case, Southwest Airlines. In reality, consumers may receive the free or discounted tickets only after jumping through several hoops that include: questionnaires, seminars, security deposits and credit card information requests despite never receiving confirmation of travel details. In the end, the free tickets are not worth your time, sometimes unobtainable, and may be an actual illegal scam.
While some of these tactics are within the letter of the law, they are persistently deceptive. Our Office recommends that you are skeptical of all travel solicitations, especially those from unfamiliar agencies and organizations. If you know you are a victim of having given one of these middlemen your money and not received anything in return, please contact our Consumer Protection Division at 800-551-4636 for more information or visit http://www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx.
Also, visit our scam alert website for more details.
General tips to avoid scams:
- Research a business or organization before you spend money to make sure they’re legitimate.
- Do not give social security, financial or other personal information to strangers who contact you by phone, internet, or mail.
- Keep your antivirus software up to date and be careful when surfing the internet.
- Shred all physical copies of important documents once you no longer need them.
- Be suspicious when asked to wire money in order to claim a prize or lottery.
- Trust your gut, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.