Scheme targets international tourists as ‘mules,’ warns Better Business Bureau

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.

For more information on finding services you can trust, visit http://www.bbb.org

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1 Comment

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One response to “Scheme targets international tourists as ‘mules,’ warns Better Business Bureau

  1. Mark Burrows

    Oops, I have to say I am a bit impressed by the criminals. I would be curious to know how they gained access to the luggage to plant the drugs. They would have had to make arrangements with someone working at the hotel they were staying at. Also, leaving Canada on international flights is not such an easy procedure as their scanning, drug sniffing devices and animals are quite advanced. Canada does not want to known as the ones who let people get away. It’s sort of a tradition they take pride in. One of their favorite tricks is the double check where they put sniffers in the cargo area of the plane as the luggage is loaded where they make a final check. So, I would be curious to know what airlines they used, and where they changed planes. When that happens, luggage is transferred to a basic locker type room in a warehouse not far from the tarmac, security there is often lacking. Meth can be made anywhere. It could have easily planted during a period while waiting for a connecting flight. This would avoid detection by inspection leaving the country because it would be assumed that since the luggage has already been inspected, it would not be inspected again as it should be safely locked up in the holding warehouse.
    Then of course, the criminals forget that regardless, luggage gets inspected anyway for the simple reason there are some ordinary items that can leave Canada, but not enter Australia and people still try to bring them along out of ignorance.

    Mark Burrows

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