3OYS WARNING: 'Free' may cost you big

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Have you received a letter recently saying you won a trip somewhere or maybe you won airline tickets?

Well, be careful. Some of these letters are from companies trying to rope you into buying a timeshare, others are from thieves just trying to steal your information.

Just remember, nothing is free. Not even airline tickets.

Barbara Rundbaken loves art and writing. She also enjoys traveling and has fond memories of Paris.

"Oh, the paintings there were just magnificent," she said.

So when Rundbaken received this letter in the mail offering her "two free roundtrip airplane tickets to travel anywhere in the continental U.S.," she was excited about where she could go next.

"I thought I would call them and find out about the roundtrip airline tickets they offered free," she said.

But after calling, no one answered. She got suspicious at that point and started investigating. She found out it was a scam.

The hook? Pay the tax fees by simply giving a credit card number or bank account information, and when you do, the tickets will be mailed to you.

"Once they get your credit card number they can go into your bank account and take out all your money," Rundbaken said.

The scheme has been around for a while, but it seemed like it disappeared. Now, it's resurfacing again and looking for more victims.

“We've been receiving complaints and concerns about this for the last two years," said Felicia Thompson.

Thompson is with the Better Business Bureau and says they've issued this warning before.

She says consumers just need to watch for the "red flags."

"If you really look closely, the airlines itself do not exist. They are a play on actual airlines," she said.

That was exactly the case for Rundbaken. The offer says it's from US Airlines, but there's actually no such airline by that name even though it kind of looks official.

Another red flag is the date on the letter. Although Rundbaken just got it, it has last year's date printed on it, as if they took old letters and started redistributing them.

"Whoever's behind this continues to do it, and they're obviously making money off of it because they are continuing to send these letters out and someone’s falling for it, unfortunately," Thompson said.

Rundbaken is sure glad she didn't fall for the scam, but she wants others to be aware.

"I think that you can never be aware enough," she said. "No matter what you do or where you go, ask questions. If you're going to do something different, just ask many, many questions before you sign the dotted line."