BBB: Suspect travel offer targets area

BURNSVILLE — Suspicious travel vouchers that have been flying across the country have landed in the Midwest.

Consumers in Minnesota and North Dakota are reporting they’ve received airfare vouchers from American Travel Deals (also doing business as Travel Union), a company given an F rating by the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Arizona (BBB) due to unanswered complaints and advertising issues. As of April 1, that BBB has been unable to confirm a physical address for the company after numerous attempts to locate them. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is telling area consumers the vouchers in question are likely a one-way ticket to trouble.

“These travel check vouchers might look like welcome news to travel-minded recipients, but a closer examination reveals that something is clearly amiss,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “For example, the accompanying letter is vague, amateurish and the airlines referenced aren’t even real.”

The company’s Business Review with the BBB of Arizona notes “the BBB has confirmed that “US Airlines” or “American Airways” are companies that do not exist. The BBB has also confirmed US Airways and American Airlines (legitimate airlines that have similar names) are not affiliated with this offer or the company sending the offer in any way.”

Thirty-seven complaints filed with the BBB of Arizona have been closed as unanswered with another 19 stuck in limbo as there is no valid address for American Travel Deals on file.

The travel vouchers may list “US Airlines,” “American Airways,” “American TAD,” or simply “American” as the issuing companies. The mailers are usually postmarked “Phoenix, Ariz.,” or “Scottsdale, Ariz.,” and do not provide a return address. The check vouchers are generally in the amount of roughly $1,200 to $1,400. The mailer includes a phone number and a deadline to redeem the voucher.

The letter may also claim, “We have attempted contacting you on several occasions. This will be your last chance to respond.” However, consumers have stated that claim is untrue. Recipients are instructed to call and redeem the voucher for a travel certificate, but in the end they’re likely just providing unknown persons access to their personal information.

On July 9, the BBB called the number listed on the supposed vouchers. A BBB staffer pretended to be a curious consumer and, after asking a series of questions, learned that they would have to attend a presentation to redeem their travel certificates. At the end of the call, after telling the customer service representative they were single, the BBB staffer was told this offer was only good for couples, though they could still be eligible for the promotion if they referred two others to attend the presentation — a stipulation which seems more than a little unusual. The company’s customer service representative directed the BBB staffer to the website “featuredtravel.com” for more information on the company.

“We encourage consumers to contact the BBB if any deal seems unusual, suspicious or too good to be true,” Badgerow added. “We can help people find companies they can trust and also warn them about scammers looking to deceive them.”

Here are some BBB tips to avoid suspicious travel offers:

  • Never give your credit card number, Social Security number or bank account information to pay for fees, taxes, or shipping costs for anything that you may have ‘won’ or are getting for ‘free.’ If you have to pay something to collect a prize, you haven’t won anything.
  • Don’t give your personal information to collect ‘prizes’ or sign up for free trials.
  • Check your bank statements and credit cards regularly for unauthorized charges.
  • If a company name is provided, go to bbb.org and research the business.

Contact the BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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