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Tripping: Free Travel Offers to Anywhere Could Take You Nowhere Fast

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The holidays are drawing near and you're thinking about how to get to grandma's for Thanksgiving and your favorite uncle's for Christmas; money for airfare may be a bit tight. But, just like that, you get a letter that sounds like you’ve lucked out in a big way. It’s an offer for free plane tickets to practically anyplace you want to go. The company — whose name appears to be that of a well-known airline — urges you to act quickly, or you might miss this “last chance.” They even sent a “voucher” for the tickets.

Seems like all you have to do is call the toll-free number on the letter and you’ll soon be flying off to your desired destination. The offer has a deadline, though, so you’d better call now, right?

Wrong. Step away from the phone. It’s probably a scam — or the strings that are attached will tie you up in knots. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What did I do to deserve this? It’s beyond improbable that you’ll get free airline tickets — or anything similar— out of the blue. Even if you entered a contest or sweepstakes, it’s unlikely that you’d get this kind of prize scot-free. The offer of something for nothing is a big red flag.
  • What’s the rush? “Act now…” “Last chance …” ”We’ve been trying to reach you ...” “Final attempt…” These are some of the phrases dishonest marketers and scam artists use to make you do something before thinking it though. Their object is to get you on the phone so they can pitch the urgency of their “offer.” Taking some time to think about it will spare you their fast talk — and possibly protect you from being ripped off.
  • What’s the catch? While some of the best things in life may be free, the best material things typically cost money. For example, even if there’s a chance of free airline tickets, you probably will be required to sit through a marathon, high-pressure sales pitch to get you to join a travel club, buy a timeshare, or otherwise commit money, sooner or later. In other words, the offer is not so “free” after all. And if you see the term “certain restrictions,” assume many restrictions will apply.
  • What’s that name again? Many scammers and dishonest marketers use names that sound very similar to legitimate airlines or other companies. Search the name of the company that sent you the letter to check on news articles or complaints. Check several sources: some companies flout the law even further by paying people to write fake endorsements.

Avoid getting swept away by flights of fantasy. Learn more about travel scams and file a complaint with the FTC if you’ve been tempted — or taken — by the promise of a free trip.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


My husband just got an "Award Notification" yesterday from a bogus company called US Airlines out of Scottsdale, AZ. It's a "Travel Check Voucher" for $1,399.00, and says it's not a timeshare or land sales offer. I was surprised at how official it looks. I did a web search, and it came up right away as a scam. Beware!

I just received a postcard appearing to be from Expedia/ saying
"Dear Angela Congratulations! You will receive 2 round-trip airline tickets on Southwest, Jet Blue, United, or a comparable airline, plus a 3-day/2-nihgt getaway at a Hotel such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton." It asks to call a number within 48 hours and I will receive a bonus as well. It gives me an RSVP number to use for my call. A small disclaimer states that "Certain restrictions apply. Call for details. Taxes & Registration fees are the responsibility of the recipient. Thos promotion is not sponsored by SouthWest Airlines, jetBlue [sic], United Airlines, Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Kayak,, or Expedia."

Needless to say, I will not be calling to claim my "prize"

I just got one, too. Mine looked very official and was for US Air, Southwest, and Jet Blue. I checked it out with BBB and sure enough it is a scam. And how did it get through the mail with no return address?

Just received the 'US Airlines' letter which lives into every bullet point in the 'Tripping:' article above. Official looking letterhead, no return address on envelope or letter.
I have determined to have a 'Family Chat' w our adult children using this as an illustration and introducing them to this very helpful FTC website.
Keep up the good work!
Paying My Own Way In Texas!

US Airlines just keeps it coming. Got my notice after "they" had attempted to contact me several times without success. Where were they sending or calling? The award was for 2 round-trip airline tickets, retail value up to $1,375.00. Letter and envelope had no return addresses, not even where it was launched from. Remember PT Barnum's line: There's a sucker born every minute.

A company out of Scottsdale Arizona sends these letters and checks. It's called B2C Marketing Group. They just opened under this new name a couple of months ago.. they set up appts for time share presentations. They pay their apt setters $35 per appt. set to get someone to go... they use to operate as Tier 3 promotions until they got caught. I just wish someone would shut them done once and for all.

I enjoy wasting their time on the phone. I sound all excited. I get them to tell about the entire deal, right down to what the deal is we have to sit thru. Then I even act excited about hearing about the timeshare, etc. But then I can't seem to make the dates. Or I don't like the the places where the timeshares are. But I'm home disabled with MS and have time to waste their time. You would be surprised at the extras they can toss in if you really are interested and have time to waste on the trips. I'm in too much pain to be able to sit in those mtgs. I also let them know that. Its a great excuse.

How can I know the cruise I paid for taxes before the cruise is legit free offer to the tone of $1,300. How do I really know this company and offer that I paid with my debit card will be the trip described?

This FTC article has travel tips for you. For example, get the name, address, and phone numbers of the cruise ship company you will be using. Then, call and confirm all the details.

You can look online to see what people say about the travel company. The Attorney General’s office in your state, or the state where the company is located, may have information about the company.

When you give your debit card number, a business can take money from your account immediately. If you want to get a refund, contact the company. If you have trouble getting a refund, contact your Attorney General’s office and report it to the FTC at

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