CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Nearly one year after a traveling company left town amid reports of costing thousands of dollars to join with vouchers that did not return proper value, the Better Business Bureau is warning people who received postcards from "American Airlines" that promise free airline tickets and hotel stays.
"This has all of the earmarks of what happened last fall," said Barbara Green of the local Better Business Bureau office. "They send a postcard saying that you've won two free airline tickets and some hotel vouchers. You call to claim them and you have to attend a seminar and you have to bring a photo ID and a credit card with you."
John Swanson, of Cedar Rapids, received one of these postcards in the mail.
"I thought this came directly from the airlines because there is absolutely no indication on the card - front or back - that it's anything other than American Airlines," said Swanson. He said he did call and found out he was required to attend a seminar at a Cedar Rapids hotel - the Homewood Suites on Park Place NE - to obtain the vouchers.
"If I responded and participated, I was entitled to anywhere that American Airlines flies in the domestic United States," said Swanson. "The whole thing was to come to the seminar and you'll get the full details."
He showed us the postcard, which is marked "American Airlines" on the front with the picture of a jumbo jet. On the back are the directions for following up.
Green said this company is named LTS Travel and is scheduled to be in Cedar Rapids through next week.
We visited the hotel to learn more and try to talk to company leaders. A handful of people did bring their postcards to check into the event at the hotel's lobby.
A man did emerge and claimed to be with LTS Travel. He would not give us his name and only confirmed the name of the company and that the only people invited to the seminar were those who received the invitations, such as the postcard that Swanson received.
The Iowa Attorney General's Office also reached KCRG-TV on Friday afternoon as investigators are looking into the claims from the Better Business Bureau. Green said they have received more calls than usual about the postcards.
Last October, TV-9's Dave Franzman reported on a travel club called "Scenic Valley Travel". The investigation in that company's methods, which also included postcards and promises of free travel to sit through a 90-minute seminar, led to the company quickly cancelling seminars and leaving the Cedar Rapids area.
Green urged people who received the postcards to investigate any sales pitches closely before agreeing to a deal.
"Don't sign anything until they get more information on them," said Green.