"...pleased to inform you that you have qualified for an award of 2 round trip airline tickets. Congratulations. These tickets are valid for travel... and the retail value is up to $1,400.00.The letter was signed with the name "Laura Day" (again, real ink that ran when I soaked it, impressive!) Vice President, Travel Awards Division. The letter indicated they had offices in "New York, Chicago, Los Angeles," provided an e-mail addy and a website.
We have attempted to contact you several times. This is our last attempt. If we do not hear from you by July 7, 2010, we will have to issue these tickets to someone else."
So I looked it up.
Their website assures me that:
"We, at Nicholson Barnes, are convinced that superior customer service and award programs are the future of developing trust and relationships with the communities we serve..."and that...
"Nicholson Barnes is the country’s leader in incentive management. Across many industries and service sectors, Nicholson Barnes assists companies of all types with marketing and activities utilizing promotional gifts and sales incentives."Now getting excited (was already beginning to plan where I'd travel) I went to the "Contact us" section of the site. But you know what? It offered no street address or phone number. Only a blind box that you could send a letter to and ONLY IF you gave them your own street address, phone number and e-mail.
I looked around the site some more. Unlike the letter, the site asserted that they had offices in: Albany, NY Tucson, AZ Winter Garden, FL Provo, UT Newark, NJ (okay, that's close to NYC) Austin, TX San Francisco, CA (same state as LA) Portland, OR and Charleston, SC.
Beginning to come down from my elation, I did a Google search for the company, and added "scams" after the name. Boy was I disappointed and surprised to find this: an Arizona Better Business Bureau alert published in the Tucson Citizen.
There are, apparently, seventeen (17!) different company names sending out virtually the same letter. One of them, Patterson Bell, has a street address in Tucson, AZ at 4811 E Grant Rd, STE 261 85712.
According to Google Maps this put the company's offices in a shopping mall, with an Outback Steakhouse nearby. None of the named businesses in the Tucson Citizen scam warning article can be found there. However, one business is listed as being in Suite 261. What business is that? None other than the Arizona Small Business Association.
I sincerely hope that no one working at ASBA has anything to do with the scammers; though it shows the scammers certainly have a wry sense of humor.
Forewarned is forearmed.
FOR WHAT ITS WORTH DEP'T: The "Page Source" info indicates that the site's format was lifted from a WordPress template.
UPDATE: I got this from Leslie Barrett at ASBA:
"The asba office moved across the hall (same location) last Fall into Ste. 262. The firm you are referring to moved into asba’s old Ste. 261. It is my understanding that the suite is now empty and that the previous tenants have vacated; perhaps due to the pressure from the media visibility, etc.And the Arizona Better Business Bureau wrote:
"Yeah, these letters have been going out under various names since at least last November. The only way we're able to stay on top of all the name changes is because consumers like yourself let us know. Thanks again!"