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“They bait you with two free tickets:” Con artists use bait and switch for travel scam

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DENVER (WITI) — If you receive a letter that looks like it is from an airline claiming you've been awarded tickets – take caution. The letters are part of an intricate gimmick by travel agencies.


Part of travel scam solicitation letter

"We caution consumers to really read the fine print," said U.S. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee.

The letter says the recipient must attend a seminar. Postal inspectors refer to solicitations like this as the classic bait and switch.

"They bait you with two free tickets. You are like, 'I’m going to get two free tickets? Of course, I’m going to go to this meeting,'" Durkee said.

Once people attend the meetings — it's not what they expected.

"Here comes the high pressure sales pitch and the presentation that you’re going to miss an opportunity if you don’t sign up for this travel club. There is a lot of pressure to sign up and it's well over $10,000," explained Durkee.

Inspectors say these solicitations are usually full of red flags.

"Con artists will use the names of legitimate, credible companies and they will use a variation of the name or twist the name," Durkee said.


US Airlines (top) is a fake company trying to associate with real airline carries US Airways (bottom)

In one case, it was the use of US Airlines versus US Airways.

"An unsuspecting consumer would get this solicitation for free travel tickets — two airline tickets — it might not register at first that US Airlines is not a carrier," Durkee said.

Hundreds of victims complained to inspectors and said the letter was completely misleading.

"They were saying they had to go to a sales seminar to purchase the travel club and victims say they didn't get their tickets," revealed Durkee.

In situations like these, if it sounds to good to be true — it likely is.

"In this day and age and our economy — you don’t get too much for free," Durkee said.

US Airways calls the letters “fraudulent” in a warning on its website.

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