About five years ago I wrote about a travel scam that typically came by letter or postcard and offered free airfare and a hotel stay any city served by an airline (pick an airline, any airline).
The scammers’ plan was to lure you to a meeting where they would aggressively push you to join a “travel club” with the promise of discounted travel is you would pony up the membership fees.
Over the next three years I updated the story whenever I read about “travel club” promotions of this kind taking place, and I continued to receive postcards and letters with “free” airfare and hotel stays, some involving airlines, others offering travel on cruise ships.
It was quite easy to spot these less-than-forthright offers when they arrived in the mail and then toss them in “the round file.”
But last Thursday I encountered the latest travel scam which came not in the mail, but in a phone call.
Here’s what happened.
Like many “robocalls,” this one to my cellphone began with a period of “dead air” after I answered the call. But very quickly I heard the voice of a young woman repeatedly apologizing.
At first, I thought she was saying that she was sorry for having dialed the wrong number, but it finally came out that she was having trouble with her headset.
Before I could respond, she began a rapid-fire spiel about me having stayed at one of “their” (she didn’t say who “they” were) resorts in the past, and so I was entitled to some sort of package deal on a resort in Orlando, Florida. Since I have no interest in visiting that city, I said “No, thanks!” and hung up the phone.
I didn’t give that call any more thought during the rest of that evening, but while perusing my Facebook Timeline posts that following morning I came across one that linked to this March 24th story by David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times. Lo and behold, Lazarus himself had almost fallen victim to what he referred to as the “can you hear me?” scam.
Like me, Lazarus thought he was listening to a real, live person talking to him on the phone. But it turns out that it was just a recording. But it wasn’t just any recording, it was one designed to prompt you to say “Yes” to one or more questions. Your affirmative response would then be edited so it sounds as though you agreed to purchase something, including a “vacation or cruise package.”
So, when the phone rings and someone doesn’t immediately come on the line, hang up.
And if you should wait long enough for the “bot” to start taking, don’t say anything, just hang up.
The only thing “free” about this scam would you allowing the scammers free access to your money. The only “discount” will be your discounted bank balance.
(In August of 2013, David Lazarus wrote about “travel club” scams for the Los Angeles Times. That story is cited in an update to my November 11, 2013 piece about such scams.)