AUSTIN (KXAN) - Gavino and Elida Morris love to travel on vacations, But with a limited budget they have to plan their trips wisely.
So when they got an offer in the mail from Platinum Travel about about a plan that included $1,400 in free airfare if they sat through a 90-minute presentation, their interest perked.
"They had slide shows and were showing all these really beautiful places you could go," Gavino recalled. "Even Hawaii was one of them."
But when the Morrises put in for the Hawaii trip, things went south.
"Within a day or two we got an email saying 'sorry you voided your airfare,'" Gavino said. So he and his wife called the KXAN Tipline.
Asked by KXAN if that meant the $1,400 was gone, Gavino says, "Yeah, exactly."
Gavino was told Hawaii was not applicable to the offer> But that is not what a Better Business Bureau client was told when she called the company about her airfare certificate.
An unidentified company representative told her, "You attend a 90-minute presentation then you receive a certificate good for one year in the continental 48 states and Hawaii and Alaska, but not Puerto Rico."
"They haven't responded to some of our complaints and they haven't responded to our advertising issues with them," said BBB spokesman Jarrod Wise.
Gavino said he entered Platinum's travel plan with monthly installments. He's paid out $3,000 but says he can't get his vacation or his money back.
"We can't get them to talk to us at all."
The BBB's client was told by the company representative there were some mistakes on the advertising postcards.
Gavino Morris filed complaints with BBB and the attorney general's office but is still out his money.
"I don't see how I'm going to get my money back. I think it's just gone."
Platinum Travel's owner Todd Folkman declined to be interviewed but said in an email that Gavino's paperwork shows the original offer was only for the continental U.S. Folkman said he found no record of Gavino calling. Folkman says his company will re-issue Gavino's free trip, but didn't mention a refund.
The BBB's wise says, "It's a red flag if you have to do anything beyond what's already offered in the advertisement. Be willing to let it go. if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is."
Gavino says he's learned a lesson.
"Man, you've got to be careful," he said. "I mean, you can't trust anybody."
Folkman also told KXAN the company is still working to resolve those outstanding issues with the Better Business Bureau.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to beware of letters, emails, or phone calls claiming you've won a prize, especially if you don't remember signing-up or anything. The BBB warns that some "offers" are meant to steal money or personal information.
So how can you protect yourself?
The Better Business Bureau offers this information to consumers receiving prize notifications:
- Are you asked to make a purchase in order to get your prize? According to the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act , if you have won something, you should not have to pay a penny or purchase anything to receive it.
- Are you asked to wire money? Never wire money to cover the fees, such as processing, administrative or tax fees, before you receive your prize. Once you've wired money there is very little chance of getting that money back.
- Be cautious of look-alikes. Beware of offers using the names or logos with the appearance of government agencies or well-known organizations. This tactic is often meant to try to confuse consumers and give them confidence in the winnings claim.
- Did you receive this notification via bulk rate mail? According to the Federal Trade Commission , it is highly unlikely that you've won a big prize if your notification was sent by bulk rate.
To check the BBB for a local company's trustworthiness or business review rating: http://austin.bbb.org/Find-Business-Reviews
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of a woman at a North Austin auto repair shop, police said Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.