Travel card scams and the latest updates on the National Do-Not-Call Registry: Internet ScamBusters #256
Today we have three Snippets for you: one is about a travel card scam now making the rounds, the second about a new phishing charity scam to supposedly help wildfire victims, and the third provides the latest update on the National Do-Not-Call Registry -- including some very good news!
Travel Card Promoters Promise Huge Travel Perks -- But Do They Deliver?
An old adage states that "you can't get something for nothing." But as regular ScamBusters readers know, "you can always get nothing for something."
This is the case with a widespread travel card scam in which consumers are solicited by phone, mail, email or print ads to buy "travel cards" that promise the same discounts and benefits enjoyed by travel agents.
Consumeraffairs.com reports, for example, that numerous southern Arizona residents recently received postcards offering "two roundtrip airfares to anywhere in the U.S." in exchange for purchasing such cards.
Although the cards featured a Southwest Airlines logo, people who contacted the company learned that Southwest was completely unaware of the "promotion."
According to a 2007 report issued by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), travel cards are essentially fraudulent travel agent credentials produced by "travel card mills," which promise discounted or upgraded travel.
"Card mills ... sell deceptive identification cards, sometimes accompanied by a package of worthless 'training' materials that falsely identify the purchaser as a 'travel agent.' These offers often say 'travel like a travel agent' and are designed to [let consumers] pass themselves off as sellers of travel services.
"These cards are represented as enabling the holder to obtain discounts, upgrades and other courtesies reserved by travel suppliers for professional travel agents who actively promote the suppliers' services.
"Often, cards are also represented as entitling the cardholders to receive commission or other remuneration on their own travel purchases."
In the vast majority of cases, says ASTA, consumers buying the cards -- for up to $495! -- are purchasing worthless pieces of plastic.
To avoid being scammed, ASTA offers tips that include:
- Ask yourself, "Am I buying the card merely for the purpose of receiving deals on my own travel, or am I interested in becoming a travel professional?"
- Be skeptical of any offer requiring you to purchase an ID card or become a member of the seller's business (often an illegal pyramid scheme).
- Check with travel suppliers whose services you want to buy, and ask whether they recognize the travel card (or an affiliation with the card provider) as the basis for receiving discounts or upgrades.
To find out more about other travel scams, visit these articles on our site: Summer Travelers: Avoid These Common Travel Scams
New Phishing IRS Scam to Supposedly Help Wildfire Victims
We always warn you that every disaster brings out the scammers, and the California wildfires are no exception.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns that a new phishing email that supposedly comes from the tax agency asks for donations for California wildfire victims.
People who click on the link go to a bogus website that asks for bank account numbers and other personal information. Scammers use this info to steal money and identities.
This email is more sophisticated than many phishing attempts, with few clues it is a scam. However, the fact that the email is supposedly from IRS is a clue in itself, since the IRS almost never sends out email.
Action: Delete these emails. Do not click on the links.
National Do-Not-Call Registry Updates
If you scrambled to sign up with the National Do-Not-Call Registry in 2003, here's good news: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will NOT let your listing expire in 2008.
The original law creating the Do-Not-Call Registry required listings to expire after five years, forcing participants to re-register if they want to continue blocking unwanted sales calls.
However, the popularity of the list (over 70% of American adults have registered their phone numbers!) combined with widespread fears that many participants would forget to re-register has led Congress to propose legislation to make listings permanent.
Because it's unclear when the new bill will be passed and signed into law, the FTC recently announced that it would not eliminate any numbers from the list while the new legislation is pending.
Plus, both the House and the Senate made progress with passing this legislation last week.
"When the registry was developed in 2003, the five-year registration period was a reasonable way to ensure that the list remained accurate and up-to-date," the FTC said. "Our experience since then in building, maintaining and enforcing the registry has led the commission to re-examine its original position on re-registration."
The five-year registration period was designed to help the commission remove old and inaccurate numbers from the list, but new technologies have made this "sun-setting provision" unnecessary.
Finally, it's worth noting that most people feel positively about the National Do-Not-Call Registry. According to an October 2007 Harris poll, 72% of Americans have registered their phone numbers and 96% plan to renew if renewal is required to remain on the list.
18% say they currently get no telemarketing calls, and 59% say they still do get some telemarketing calls, but far less than before they registered. Only 1% say they get more than before they signed up.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!