Identify this vacation and credit card scam to me

I just had a telemarketer from American Express call me offerring me a free vacation at the destination of my choice as “thanks for my loyalty as a cardholder”. In her opening speech, she mentioned the last 4 digits of my Amex card number, which she named accurately. They wanted to mail me out a packet with my free travel information, and just wanted to charge me $1 for shipping and handling on the packet.
Knowing that this was likely a scam or at best a poor buy, I said I was broke and indicated my inability to spare the $1. She noted that the vacation was free and would not cost me any money. I asserted that $1 is, in fact, money that I’d rather spend elsewhere.
For background, I am not Amex’s best or worst customer. I’ve spent around $11,000 on this card in maybe 4 years, and pay them around $25 per month in interest, on average.
I can’t imagine that I’m a good enough customer to warranty this kind of benefit out of the blue.
Had I taken her up on her offer, how would I have been disappointed?

Well, if they’re charging $1, how is it free information? :dubious:

It seems unlikely that anyone got the last four digits of the credit card number and not the rest (and if they got the rest, they don’t need to call you), so I’d say that it probably did come from Amex.

You’d probably get a book of vacation packages. It’s probably pretty standard stuff – they probably can offer them to anyone, just like anyone can get vacation packages from Amex online.

The $1.00 probably serves to enter you into a “business relationship” with the vacation/spam company, at which point they can add your phone number to their list even if you’re on the Do Not Call list otherwise. You agree to pay $1.00 for the advertising, so it’s not just junk mail that you were forced to accept – your receipt of the package counts as a “purchase”. I can only imagine what this opens the floodgates for.

I can’t imagine that they’re making enough on this that it’s worth their while to pay a telemarketer to do the calls just for the $1.00 per mailing cost. Whatever it is they’re selling (time shares? vacations?) it must be awful if they have to pay people $1.00 to find the right names to target. Expect that any list gathered this way will be sold to many many different people.

How did they plan on collecting the $1?

If they were going to charge $1 to your Amex Card (without you providing the full number over the phone), it was probably legit. If they needed you to give them your card number, or bank account number, to collect the $1, it was a scam. recently posted a warning about a similar scam from callers posing as Wal-Mart. They offer to send you $100 in free coupons, if you pay the $4.50 delivery charge. We’ll just need your bank account information for the $4.50, and you coupons will be on their way…

Not necessarily true. How many times have you purchased something online using a credit card? Usually you’ll get a plain text email confirming the order. The email includes your name, address, phone number and (surprise!) the last 4 digits of your credit card.

It’s a relatively trivial thing for an email harvesting program to pick out this information, so the scammer could, indeed, have the last 4 digits of the card number, and is calling to find out the rest of the number.

It’s odd that Snopes mentions a “free coupon scam” like that.
I had a marketer similar to this one who called me last month, who also wanted $1 for shipping and handling, who was going to mail me some “gasoline discount cards” and some other “coupons worth over $100 in savings”.
He, too, was informed that I would rather have a known good $1 than “hundreds of dollars worth” of crap of unknown true value.

Getting the last 4 digits of a credit card is pretty easy. Check your credit card receipt sometime. Most of them I get now have just the last 4 numbers showing.
All it would take is a lost receipt and they have your name and last 4 digits of your credit card.


That’s exactly what I thought. Your name is usually printed, along with “AMEX xxxx xxxxxx 4745” (or however your card ends). They could even say it began with 37, since an Amex always does.

It could be similiar to one I almost got caught in years ago. I was young, and didn’t know to be wary.

I was at some kind of trade show, there was a booth that said it was holding a free drawing for a vacation. They said it was only available to people who had a credit card. They asked to see mine. I wouldn’t show it. They said all I had to do was show the very top of my card, keeping my number covered. So I showed them the top of my card, and entered the drawing.

Two days later I get the call. I WON!! I was very excited. I had never won anything before. The caller fed into that, how lucky I was, on and on.

As she describes my dream vacation, she tells me there will be $5.00 tax charge for a ferry I would have to take. OK, $5.00 is not much, I said OK. A little later she tells me of a $10.00 fee for mailing tickets. OK. Then a $25.00 charge for a port fee or something. When the total got to about $175.00 in charges, I figured out I would end up paying what the vacation would normally cost me, and hung up.

I think the reason they wanted to see that I had a credit card, but didn’t need to see the number or anything was to be sure I had a credit card, and could then use that to charge the fees they were charging.

Once I figured out it was a scam I felt very foolish, but glad I had the experience to teach me to be skeptical of any “free.”

Why don’t you call AMEX direct and talk to them about this. It could be legit- and if it ain’t, then AMEX woudl like to know about it, I’ll bet.

Good idea. I’ll try calling Monday, which is the next time I expect to have the free time to do this.

I’ve had lots of these calls over the years, including the trade show ‘Free Vacation’ drawings and such. I always end up winning a free trip. :smiley:

Except they’re not free, as you found out.

The proper thing to do if you’re reluctant and they claim you really have WON is to ask for a phone number to call them back at. Tell them you need to talk to your wife about it first and she ain’t home right now (I’ve actually had them offer to call my wife at work and do a conference call). Hang up and call them back. Don’t give your credit card number or bank account numbers out over the phone.
If you’ve really won a trip ask them to mail you the details. That, along with a working return phone number should provide enough proof of legitimacy.

Then look up the company or promotion on the WEB. If it’s been around for even a little while and is a scam it should be out there.

Just got another one.
I have ANI caller ID on the corporate phone at my desk, but it showed up as originating at 000-000-0000.
“Slant: Hello.
TM: May I speak to Mr. Slant?
Slant: What is your name?
TM: <name>. May I speak to Mr. Slant?
Slant: Who do you work for?
TM: I work for VGE financial, on behalf of American Express, Visa and others. May I speak to Mr. Slant?
Slant: sigh Is there a no-call list you could put me on?
TM: click

It had the same telemarketing sweat shop background noise as the last one.
I am uncertain VGE financial is the name, it COULD have been VE or VDE.
I’ll do some googling to determine the real name of this business, if there is such a business.

Even though we always ask to be put on the no call list, we still get many of these annoying offers. My husband has deceided since he can’t stop them, he will have fun with them.

Caller: Great news, you have been selected to receive a great vacation package!

Mr Grits: Great! I am so lucky!

Caller: You’ll spend 5 days in Mexico in a Luxury hotel!

MR Grits: Oh wait, I have been to New Mexico, don’t really want to go again.

Caller: No not NEW Mexico, Mexico the country.

Mr Grits: Well isn’t New Mexico a country?

Caller: No, New Mexico is a state, Mexico is a country, that is where you get to go!

Mr Grits: What about Canada, is that a state?

Caller: No, Canada is a country also.

Mr Grits: I think I would rather go to Canada, could you send me there?

Caller: Uh no, this trip is for Mexico…it’s free, just send a dollar…

Mr Grits: Don’t they speak French in Canada, I better start to learn French, do you know of a good “Learn to speak French” book?

Caller: Er, you won’t need to speak French in Mexico, that is where this trip is, Mexico…

Mr Grits: Do they still have those Canadian Mounties? I would like to see them. Like in that movie with…oh, what was his name, the guy in the Mummy movies?

Caller: ah, I don’t know, now about this trip…

Mr Grits: You know, that young actor, well guess he in not so young now, but he was in lots of movies like…

Caller: Click

It is actually amazing how long he can keep some of these people on the line.

Another fun one is to just repeat everything back they say in the form of a question.

Caller: I have great news for you today?

Mr Grits: You have great news for me?

Caller: Yes, you have won a free trip!

Mr Grits: I have won a free trip?

Caller: Yes, to Mexico, all you have to do is send a dollar.

Mr Grits: All I have to do is send a dollar?

Caller: Yes, the dollar is for shipping costs

Mr Grits: The dollar is for shipping costs?

And on and on and on…
He actually times the phone calls, tries to break the record with each call. He is easily amused.

What’s his current record?

Here is my countermeasure:

telecreep: May I speak with Perderabo?
Me: Sure, just a minute. Holding the phone 18 inches away. Yo, Perderabo! Telephone!

Then I set the phone down and wait until it starts beeping. Then I hang up.

I have been cell phone only for 2 years now. There may be some small negatives, but at least I haven’t gotten a telemarketer in 2 years.

I never got around to calling Amex.
I got another marketing call from the same people today.
I MAY have grounds for a telecommunications privacy act violation, but given that damages under that are capped at $100, I sincerely doubt I’ll sue.

[My desk phone rings]
[Picks up phone].

Female Voice: [asks for Mr. Slant]l
MS: Who is this?
Female Voice: Ms. Jeri Kurl* calling from Vici Financial.
MS: [Makes sure I have the spelling right on the employer].

MS: What’s your callback number in case I lose you?
JK: [Has to look it up.] My callback is 1-727-533-8678.

MS: Mailing Address?
JK: Why do you want my mailing address? I’ll have to get my supervisor.

MS: I just want to know who I’m dealing with.
JK: 14001 63d Way N, Clearwater, FL 33706

MS: Calling… American Express… receiving $100 in free gasoline vouchers… and a $25 Wal-Mart gift cards.

MS: What is the price for the savings cards after the 30 days?
JK: $19.95/mo.

MS: What are the redemption terms on the gasoline vouchers?
JK: [Has to consult with supervisor.] [Informs me that the vouchers are mail in rebates]

MS: Can you send your do-not-call list process?
JK: [Wants to turn me over to her supervisor. Notes that she is just a call rep.]

[A supervisor comes on. He identifies himself as Jimbo*.]

MS: Can you send your do-not-call list process?
Jimbo: No I cannot.

MS: That’s interesting. Everyone else can.

[Mr. Slant hangs up, notes times on his desk phone.]

  • Jimbo and Jeri Kurl are not the names they gave me, although the names they gave me are certainly false.

As simple and as old as this tactic is, your delivery gave me a chuckle. :smiley:

The most recent “free vacation” I won was from a car dealership. These offers are so ubiquitous that you really have to ask yourself “why?” There is no philanthropic billionaire giving away fabulous vacations to deserving citizens; someone is making money off the deal, and while it may not qualify as an illegal scam, it definitely involves deception.

First, the vacations are usually for accomodations only. No transportation, no food, no tips. If you were to make it to the destination, I suspect you would not be happy with the accomodations. You do not have a choice of hotel or room. You can be put in a filthy dump far off the beaten path, and you have no redress, because you accepted the terms of the offer.

Additionally, there are usually fees and surcharges just to apply for the vacation. In the case of my “free vacation”, these would’ve amounted to over $100.

The big deception is that it is unlikely you will be able to schedule the vacation. The offer I investigated let you request three possible dates on your application. If none of these are available (almost certain), a date is chosen for you, and if you are unable to go on that date, there is a cancellation fee of several hundred dollars.