The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 30, 2013

Don’t get tripped by free getaway

By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — There’s nothing better than a vacation — except a free one.

With summer coming, those enticing free trip offers are arriving fast and furious by mail, email and phone.

This week’s too-good-to-be-true trip offer comes in the form of a simple postcard, purportedly from American Airlines. Among those receiving it was David R. of Danville.

There’s a commercial plane pictured flying across the front of the postcard and the words “AA American Airlines 2013 Fly Away Promotion.”

Flip it over and it says: “In celebration of our new year packages, we’ve selected you to receive two round trip airfares to anywhere in the contiguous United States — good for the next 12 months!

“Call within 48 hours and mention your promo code to receive a 3 day 2 night hotel stay at major brands” (Guessing here that “major brands” means major hotel chains).

Read the small print: “All trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners. Offer void where prohibited by laws. All components of this offer are fulfilled by a third-party. Certain restrictions apply. Recipient responsible for all applicable taxes. Please call for details.”

“It didn’t take much Internet research to find that this a scam,” David wrote.

A copy of the front and back of the same postcard is listed on American Airlines’ website, under “New Phishing Alerts” and describes the “promotion” as a fraud.

David did not call the number on the postcard, but The Daily Item did. The call was answered by Karen with an organization called Awards Departments (the “third party” mentioned in the postcard’s small print). She was very forthcoming with information despite saying that since the call was not made within 48 hours, the offer was no longer available.

What opportunity was missed? Attending a presentation of a travel club, which lasted about two hours.

These presentations were set up all across the country. In Pennsylvania, she said there were seven presentations scheduled and that the closest one to Danville was probably for the Sea Breezes travel club but she couldn’t say exactly where in the state the presentation was held and had no information about Sea Breezes.

What are travel clubs? Travel clubs, she explained, “purchase vacations — cruises, hotel rooms, etc. — in bulk and then offer discounted travel accommodations to the members.”

How much does it cost to join the travel club?

Answered Karen: “I don’t know.”