Twenty-five years in jail could have been the penalty for an Australian couple who found themselves involved in a travel sweepstake scam.
On October 13 of this year at the Perth International Airport in Australia, two Australian residents returning from Canada alerted customs with concerns about their luggage. The couple had won a trip to Canada with new luggage from AUSCAN Tours, a bogus Canadian tour company. When the bags were examined, 3.5 kilograms of methamphetamine were discovered in each suitcase and the couple realized they had been tricked into being drug mules. A man has been arrested and charged with the crime.
While this scam involved an Australian couple, all travelers are potential victims. And it is the seriousness of the scam and the potential punishment that is most alarming.
Because the payoff was very high, the criminals were willing to go to great lengths to pull off this scam. In this case they were willing to pay the couple to fly to Canada, lodge them at a hotel for seven days and fly them back just so the drugs could be smuggled over the border. The Better Business Bureau reminds consumers that this could happen to anyone if they are not cautious and knowledgeable of scam tactics.
If you are told that you have won a vacation, the Better Business Bureau has tips to help you avoid getting scammed:
- Look out for emails, letters and phone calls offering deals that seem too good to be true. Do not open emails like this, as they could have a virus embedded in them.
- If you are working with a travel agency, get all the details in writing.
- Do your research. Check out the travel agency or the organization sponsoring the vacation trip on www.bbb.org. Read the reviews and make sure that the business is legitimate.
- Be wary when you hear the word “free.” It is highly unlikely that a business would give a vacation away completely free. There is always a catch.