Feb 5, 2013 3:42 PM by Melissa Canone
Two free airline tickets are always a nice surprise, but for those receiving an official-looking check in the mail from an unfamiliar company, the offer is likely not what it appears.
The Better Business Bureau of Acadiana has recently received numerous phone calls on a company called Travel Union (Travel Awards Division). This company is sending out misleading vouchers that appear to be checks for two free round-trip airline tickets through a national airline.
The official-looking letters sent from this company contain a check made out to "American Airways" a marketing firm, on behalf of the person receiving the mail.
American Airways, dba Travel Awards Division, has an F rating with the BBB.
Factors that lowered US Airlines' rating include failure to respond to 3 complaints filed against business, advertising issue(s) found by BBB and the business has failed to resolve underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints. The BBB also does not have sufficient information to determine how long this business has been operating, nor does it have sufficient background information on the business.
The BBB has received complaints stating that consumers have received a letter from US Airlines or US Airways stating that consumers have been awarded two round trip tickets for travel anywhere in the continental US. This is not affiliated with the actual airline, US Airways, and this company does not have permission to use the name.
After the BBB of Acadiana called the toll-free number in the mail-out, it was discovered that the mail-outs were sent on behalf of Rapid Travel Rewards, which claimed to be a national travel agency new to the Lafayette area, but no local address on the company could be found.
In order to collect the free airline tickets, local consumers must attend a seminar put on by Rapid Travel Rewards at the Lafayette Hilton on Pinhook Road.
Attendees are told to bring a valid identification and a credit card, which the company claimed would not be swiped or even leave the possession of the card holder.
Local BBB-accredited travel agent Kermit Duhon of Travel Machine in Lafayette said consumers should use caution when responding to such offers.
"Look into travel offers received by mail or coming in through the phone carefully," he said. "If you are unfamiliar with the company or the offer sounds too good to be true, use caution, be skeptical and check with the BBB, especially if you are unfamiliar with the company."
Local banks have also received calls on the checks from consumers inquiring to see if the company and check were real.
The BBB offers the following tips to those who receive checks or vouchers in the mail:
* Ask yourself if there is anything suspicious about the transaction. Be suspicious if told you have won a prize and need to act quickly or need to keep your winnings quiet while your claim is being processed.
* Independently verify that the check is drawn on a legitimate financial institution or company, and represents an actual account. Do not rely on the telephone number listed on the check. Use directory assistance to get the telephone number of the financial institution or company and call them to verify the check.
* Do not send any merchandise or rely on the money until the funds have been collected by your financial institution. Money made immediately available is not an indication that the check cleared.
* If you have any questions about whether a transaction is legitimate, talk directly to your banker or credit union representative.
* Those victimized by a phony check drawn on a federally insured financial institution should call the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation at (877) 275-3342.
The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please contact the BBB at www.acadiana.bbb.org or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America.
The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.