Aging baby boom population sparks rise in 'free plane ticket' scams

We all like vacations. We all like to get away. And most of us want to save money. Factor in millions of people age 50 and over with money to spend and time to spend it- and you've got the perfect storm for the "free airplane ticket" scam.

In May it was a fake check for a $1,300 travel voucher. The letter said American, but it was not American Airlines.

In July, it was hand addressed letters stating you've qualified for two round trip plane tickets. Again the name "American" was on the letterhead, but was not American Airlines either.

Now, in August, two more letters promising round-trip airfares. This time the letterheads imply a different major airline. One says "U.S. Flight Rewards," and the other says "US Airlines." But the real USAirways has nothing to with them.

USAirways even has a warning on its website and calls it a scam.

Whether it's a letter or a postcard- they have the same thing in common. To collect your free plane tickets, you must call right away, and bring your ID and credit card to a presentation about fabulous vacation deals across the country.

The presentation is what it's really all about. You'll be wowed by glitzy videos of great destinations, and promised savings of thousands of dollars on future travel and lodging.

Then you'll get your own salesperson who will put what one undercover investigator described as very heavy pressure on you get you to charge thousands of dollars on your credit card for a vacation membership.

You'll never get a chance to think about it and investigate on your own. Anyone who does business like that is only after one thing: Your money.

The trick is to get you focus on the dream beaches, luxury hotels, sidewalk cafes, and most important, saving money on travel. Victims who fall for the schemes say they don't get the vacations they expected, and their money is almost always long gone.

The state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau say in addition to money, many plane ticket scams are also after personal information.

Bottom line: If you get an unsolicited notice about free plane tickets but there's no return address, and you have to call right away and attend a presentation, rip it up, throw it away, do not respond- unless you're willing to give thousands of dollars to strangers for a vacation you may never be able to take.