Hispanics Are Targets of Suspicious Vacation Sweepstakes
My office has heard from Hispanic-surnamed consumers who received unexpected calls, often to their cell phones, informing them that they “won” a fun-filled vacation. Consumers who answer these calls first hear a recording in Spanish telling them to “press 1 if your credit card number begins with a 4.” After following this prompt, consumers are connected to a live Spanish-speaking person who enthusiastically congratulates the consumer for having won a travel package with airfare and hotels to places like Disney World or Las Vegas.
First of all, the initial prompt asking consumers if their credit card begins with the number 4 is simply a ploy to ensure that those who proceed to talk with a live representative have a credit card. A large number of credit cards begin with the number 4.
Once they speak to an agent, consumers learn they must give the caller their full credit card number to pay a $399 “processing fee” for this fabulous vacation. Consumers who hesitate are given the hard sell and are told they are neglecting the well being of their children by not accepting such a great deal that the whole family will enjoy.
It is very doubtful that anyone can legitimately offer an excursion package like what is being touted for $399. Also, consumers who accept the offer would be handing over credit card information to a complete stranger.
DO NOT give your credit card numbers or any other financial information to telemarketers who call unexpectedly and use high pressure tactics like these. If you must pay any amount, then it is not really a gift. Just hang up.
If you are getting calls like these and want to report them to my office call 1-800-252-8011 or go online at www.oag.state.tx.us. Both our hotline and Web page offer assistance in Spanish.
ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.
Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.