Roanoke, VA (January 8, 2014) - As frigid arctic weather hits the country, many Virginia residents may be dreaming of a sunny vacation, or simply double-digit temperatures. Free airline prize mailings landing in mailboxes this week, however, are not their ticket out of the cold.
The BBB Serving Western VA is reporting a wave of deceptive mailings informing recipients that they have qualified for two free round-trip airline tickets. These mailings are almost identical to letters mailed across the country the BBB first reported in the spring of 2013. The letters look official, coming in a tri-fold envelope resembling mailings usually reserved for paychecks and business payments. The letter reads:
NOTE: You must respond no later than (Deadline date listed)
Dear (Resident’s Name),
I am pleased to inform you that you have qualified for an award of two (2) round-trip airline tickets. These tickets are valid for travel anywhere within the Continental United States departing from any major international airport. In addition, you will receive two (2) nights at any one of over 1000 Hotel locations. The retail value of this award is up to $1,398.00.
Because previous attempts to reach you have been unsuccessful, this correspondence will serve as your final notification. If I do not hear from you within 10-days these travel vouchers will be awarded to an alternate.
The letter has “FLY US AIRLINES” in bold capitalized letters as a header, and lists US Air, Southwest, and Jet Blue below. An alternate letter has the same contents but lists “Cheap Tickets” at the top; a direct reference to CheapTickets.com in an attempt to appear official. This mailing is not from any major airline and there is no such airline as US Airlines. US Airways has issued an alert on their website about the mailings, stating that they have no connection to the deceptive offers.
The mailings are in reality a solicitation using recognizable company names in order to sell travel memberships. Those hoping to redeem the vouchers are required to attend a 90-minute presentation and are asked to purchase high-dollar travel memberships. The BBB Serving Western VA has not discovered any consumer who has received and redeemed these prizes in the manner stated in the letters. The prizes come with restrictions and stipulations, and the mailing states in small print on the back of the envelope:
Certain Restrictions Apply. Call For Details. Taxes & registration fees and/or processing fees are the responsibility of the recipient. This promotion is not sponsored by or affiliated with Marriot or any other third party business referenced in this promotion but they are major suppliers.
BBB advises consumers to be wary of any letters, emails, or phone calls that claiming they have won a prize, especially if the consumer does not remember entering a contest. Unfortunately such mailings are often either scams meant to steal personal information, or solicitations disguised as prizes.
To help consumers identify deceiving offers, sweepstakes scams, and hidden solicitations, BBB provides the following tips:
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.
Be cautious of look-alikes. These mailings often use names of government agencies, well-known organizations, and related companies to try to confuse you and give you confidence in the winnings claim.
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.
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution service, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/BBBWesternVA and on Facebook at facebook.com/BBBWesternVA.