Is this a scam? “American Airways” just sent me a check for $1,298

American Airways just sent me a check for $1,298. How generous of them. But hang on a second … American Airways?

OK, so technically they addressed it to Kari, my better half. But she remembers this post about US Airlines a few months ago, and thought she recognized the logo, and passed it along to me.

It looks like a real check. Well, almost.

But just a minute. The top part says it’s not a check, but a check “voucher” and the memo says it “must be redeemed for travel certificate.” So, bad news, Kari: you can’t take this to the bank.

Fellow Orlando blogger Jessica Kirby thinks this is a scam, and says as much on her site. The folks behind the offer have apparently threatened her if she doesn’t remove her post. I’d like to see them try.

The BBB believes this is a phishing scam, which is intended to get personal information from you. It’s unclear what led it to that conclusion, but I share BBB’s suspicions. Something doesn’t look right about this.

Is there anyone who thinks this is for real? As a matter of fact, yes. A few weeks ago, a commenter on my US Airlines post declared that this was “a legitimate offer to market a legitimate service,” adding, “Duh!”

His name? Arthur Decco.

If you think there’s a guy out there named Arthur Decco, then you probably also can be persuaded that an airline like “US Airlines” or “American Airways” exists, and that it has cut you a check.

It is perhaps more than a little ironic that the real US Airways and American Airlines are probably going to announce a merger shortly. That could limit the effectiveness of this offer, although I suppose “United Airways” and “Delta Airways” could be used in a pinch. Don’t even bother changing the logo, fellas — it looks just fine the way it is now.

So it this a scam or not? I’m willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve gotta tell you, I’m having a hard time with this one. If it were a legitimate offer, then why use a fake airline name and send me a check “voucher” that almost looks like the real thing?

Makes me wonder what else they could be hiding.

Is the "American Airways" offer a scam?

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Update (3/2/13): From a reader —

I’m sure you’re already aware of this, but I just got an updated scam letter in the mail. Apparently they have updated themselves, preparing for US Air to go away after the merger. Their new scam airlines is “United Airways” with a generic airline-like logo next to it.

AND, the envelopes are hand written and the letter inside is hand signed (can feel the pen marks through the paper).

Thanks for the warning. So noted.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • dourdan

    there is no such airline as “American Airways”- so where would you use the voucher?

    Is it a travel agency?

    if someone did call them up and try to use the voucher would they offer flights on other, more famous airlines?

    a Google search seems to indicate that most of people believe this to be a scam.

    so if Arthur Decco is out there, please answer my question. “where/how would you use the voucher?”

  • Andre_K_FL

    Absolutely a scam. I’ve gotten this in the mail last year and tossed it right in the trash.

  • Brian_in_Wien

    Haha! Arthur Decco, or “Art Decco” for short. There is a lot of art deco where I come from – I miss it now…

  • Cybrsk8r

    WOW! This is the first poll I’ve ever seen here where not even one gullible person voted the other way. Of course, it could just be that the scammers haven’t found this article yet. I mean, if they’re good scammers they would be searching for articles like this. They don’t want you warning all the pigeons away.

    Chris, if anyone does think this is a real offer, could you send me their names? I have 50 million dollars I need to move out of the country, and I need someone to help me do it.

  • CarolinaLannes

    Ok, aparently “Arthur Decoo” found this article and voted.

    And I would just trow that away. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Googling this finds (amongst volumes and volumes of crap) someone calling them up and finding this to be an MLM scam.

    This is a no-brainer. Stuff like this invariably turns out to be either phishing, advance-fee scam, or MLM.

  • EdB

    Spoke too soon. In the 35 minutes since your post, there have been 2 gullible votes.

  • EdB

    Legit offer or not, sending what appears to be a check is a scam. The first photo, the one saying it was an award notification, did the OP actually enter some sort of contest where they would get an award? They also said they had tried several times to contact them. All earmarks of a scam.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Life is full of surprises.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    My husband got one of these a few weeks ago, while waiting for a travel-related refund. He eagerly opened up the envelope, but couldn’t figure out why this check was for so much more than the amount of the anticipated refund. Either I or his employer make all of his travel arrangements, so he didn’t know there isn’t an “American Airways”. Mind you, my husband is very intelligent and is well respected in his field. I made him take the check to work and explain it to his co-workers and employees, since many of them may have been unfamiliar with this scam also,

    Besides my nasty, suspicious nature when it comes to things that are too good to be true, I’d read about this scam on Thanks, Chris!

  • EvilEmpryss

    This looks to me like a highly inflated loan scam. You accept the terms by cashing the check or calling in to use the voucher, then wind up having to pay back the money at something like 47% interest… or worse. Can’t tell for certain without seeing the back of the “check”.

    So, Chris, did you call the number and ask them for details? I’d like to hear what they had to say. If it’s a legitimate contest with real prizes then they need to have official rules for entry and winner selection that abide by all relevant state laws.

    For that matter, if it really is a scam, could *anyone* call and say they heard about this awesome offer and want to know how to get entered for an award? I’m really curious if the company would find an “alternate” prize for them. :p

  • $16635417

    ..and probably his friend, Art Vandelay, as well.

  • BillCCC

    Yes a scam. They will book you a flight at an inflated price and then deduct the ‘award’. You will end up paying much more than you normally would. Or in order to use this ‘award’ you will have to book all travel through this company and will end up paying outrageous prices for a hotel and rental car.

    You notice that the cheque is actually made out to “US Airlines”, probably the name of a travel company and must be used for a travel certificate. You will need to book a vacation getaway or cruise through them.

  • cjr001

    Got one of these a few months ago. It screams scam in about every way imaginable.

    I’m surprised the USPS hasn’t gotten involved in trying to shut this down.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Good news, via Twitter. @AmericanAir promises to investigate this offer. Maybe they’ll get to the bottom of it?

  • Charlie Funk

    Arthur Decco thinks it’s legit. His cousin, Gully Bull, does likewise.

  • Linda

    I got one too..went right into my shredder!

  • y_p_w

    It’s not a real check.

    It may not be a phishing scam but some other shady deal such as a presentation for a useless vacation club.

  • y_p_w

    There is no “American Airways”? I found this (solely for entertainment purposes):

    “American Airways

    American Airways, the proud career of America is a subsidiary of the AMR Corporation and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. American operates an extensive network of scheduled flights in North America, Latin and South America, Europe, Asia/Pacific and the Caribbean. The airline is the founding member of Oneworld (one of the largest world’s global airlines alliance). The airline is also listed at number 120 in the list of Fortune 500 2010 companies.”

    Entering here, the domain is registered to a “Basit Ali”:

  • John R. Strohm

    Funny, I just got one of those mail pieces from “United Airways.”

    It went straight into the shredder.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Interesting. American Airways appears to be a legitimate (and large) airline. I wonder how they’d feel about these scammers sullying their good name? Thanks for the research.

  • Stockton Geogtrapher

    Of course it is a scam; and it is indeed a phishing expedition. I get them all the time: my cable service payment was refused, for example, so just call in with a new credit card number or similar … and other payments I make via either a credit card or direct debit. Dump them immediately, and do not reply, ever!

  • Stockton Geographer

    Sorry, but other businesses send (or used to send) what appeared to be a check … and you sent it in to the business only to find you had signed up for an alternative telephone service provider, or similar.

  • EdB

    Thank you for validating my point. Sending what appears to be a check that signs you up for something or locks you into a contract is a scam.

  • y_p_w

    Just as a warning for those without a proper bullshit detector, “American Airways” is obviously not the rather legitimate “American Airlines”. The key warning signs should be the use of the word “career” which was likely meant to be “carrier”.

    I believe this is a phishing scam designed to pull in names and phone numbers to sell to telemarketers.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Damn… sucked me in. Thank you for exposing THIS scam. I bought it hook, line, and sinker.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Not at all surprising. There’s a sucker born every minute. At the present moment there are 6 “no” votes. 2 of them are suckers (who also sent thousands of dollars to Nigerian princes). 3 of them are employees of the mythical “American Airways”. And 1 of them is Art Decco. ;-)

  • LonnieC

    Are you kidding? It’s made to look like a check but it isn’t/. It’s written using a fake name, made to look like a real company. Almost by definition, it’s a scam.

  • LonnieC

    If you Google “American Airways” you get several scam alerts…. And yes, the use of the word “career” instead of the correct word “carrier” is another giveaway. Apparently, many scam artists either can’t spell or aren’t very familiar with proper “business English”.

  • $16635417

    I still have a home phone number. (Landline via internet) I have this number on all my personal accounts, bank, credit card..etc. The only people with my cell are friends, family, work, doctor and the cell phone provider.

    I occasionally receive a call on my cell from someone saying that they are from the credit card processors, but when I ask which credit card, they cannot tell me because of “security reasons” and ask me to verify the account number. Since none of my credit card banks have my cell, I know it’s not them. Do people REALLY fall for this?

    I usually ask a bunch of dumb questions like “What’s your favorite color?”, “Did you see CSI last night?”, “”Do you like Law & Order better?”…etc. That usually results in a hang up so they can move on to someone who actually falls for their game.

  • BeckyAintheBay

    If people really believe this isn’t a scam, can they prove that even one person was able to “redeem” this offer for an actual flight on the totally legitimate career “American Airways?”

  • Miami510

    As I use to teach my kids, “Repeat after me: If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

  • BMG4ME

    Why would anyone do business with a company with a name designed to mislead? Although it’s not the same, it reminds me of a check I received as did others, described here

  • Lindabator

    Redtape at NBC News already addressed this scam issue – its a shame its still rolling around, when that was brought to our attention this last June!

  • Joseph Blasi

    read man 1 bank 0 that check may just pay off if things work out right for you.

  • Lord Barrington

    I am a Nigerian banker send it to me

  • Benjamin Fleischer

    Notice that the check is payable to themselves. It’s not payable to you. It’s like writing yourself a check and handing it to deposit on condition they wash your car. The deposited check goes back into your account and you get a free carwash. —> SCAM. (We got a US Airlines one as well. Too bad there’s no one to repot it to but blogs and twitter)

  • Milwauken

    Is he related to Mr. Bauhaus?

  • Mike

    I also received an identical “check” for the same amount, made out to American Airways on behalf of my name. I’m shredding it.

  • Bob C

    I got one today. American Airways – Shea Steil or Steit 1-866-955-1677 – needless to say, I didn’t call.

  • MiMiInIndy

    This is most likely a scam. If you look at the bank info at the bottom of the check, one of the two numbers would normally be the bank acct number, and the other woudl be the routing number. Bank routing numbers are 9 digits long. Account number length varies from bank to bank (or credit union, etc.).

  • BL in VA

    I just got one too. I immediately thought, “no way – no company would dish out that amount money without getting something in return”. Something very phishy about it.

  • HC21

    I just got my “Final Notice” in the mail today. They have modified things a little. Mine only says “American” at the top left and doesn’t have the triangle. The 1-866# is different. (it is 1-866-721-3579 if you’d like to call and harass them) The signature is different on mine. It is either Lane Cae, or Jane Cae. And the routing # and account # info at the bottom is different on my notification. What a scam!

  • HC21

    I just called the # to check it out. A recorded voice answered saying “thank you for calling the travel awards division.” From there it was a typical hold with the british female voice reminding me that somebody will be with me shortly and hold music. She answered and I told her that I received the certificate. She asked me for the 2 letter -# code, which turns out was actually associated with my information. She had trouble pronouncing my city name which is common, so I asked where she is, she said, Scottsdale AZ. Verified if I was in the target market, (married, age 28-72, and income of 50k+) Asked for an email address, so I gave her one I use for junk mail. She said it would have directions to the local office where I could go pick up the tickets after they talked to us briefly and gave us a tour. (to me that sounded like they are trying to sell a time share, even though it indicates on the front of my voucher they are not selling timeshares or land sales.) She wanted to set up our appointment, and I told her I’d have to make sure with my wife’s schedule. She offered me a hotel stay if I make my appointment now, and I could change it later. I told her I couldn’t and would have to call her back. I asked her how I entered to win this “award” and she said that it’s based on travel history or it can happen when you sign up for the frequent shopper cards at stores. Overall, she was very polite and not pushy. But I still don’t trust this deal.

  • Guppusmaximus

    I received a qualification letter today from American Airways AND it was from their Vice President Ali Hale for 2 round-trip tickets valued at (wait for it) $1,298.00 (ta-dah) . I didn’t think a VP would have the time to do phishing marketing while running such a prestigious, non-existent Airlines…LMAO!

  • Mike Smithy

    Just another con coming from south Florida. Can anyone tell me why Florida is the scam capital of North America?

  • Ice5

    Nothing to get to the bottom of, it’s bullshit!

  • Raven_Altosk

    …yeah, and I’m a Nigerian Prince trying to smuggle my family fortune out of the country.
    Send me $5000 for taxes and I’ll split it with ya!

  • Louis

    Today is 6/13/2013 and just got one exactly like article. Except my “VOUCHER” was for 1198.00, and of course after further investigating, this is such A SCAM, please people don’t fall for this, I hope they get caught for misleading the public into such a bogus scam. By the way, the number said to call 1-866-279-1964, and was signed by Bridget Long. Yeah right, if that is her real name. I hope no one else will be fooled by these people. Just to note, mine was sent from American Airways too, just a different phone number listed. Happy I threw this quickly in the trash, because it is.

  • JR

    Signed by Bridget Long? The same one who signed my check from US Airlines? Bridget is working her butt off at two airlines at the same time. WOW!

  • Nancy

    I received the infamous check voucher today (6/19/13). It was from “US Airlines” and signed by Bridget Long. I Googled the phone number (866-249-1722) on the voucher and all I came up with were hits for NCO Financial, a debt collection agency.

  • Always check twice

    Just received one in Indiana for $1198. Phone number 866-276-0946. Authorized signature Madeline Jay.
    It looks like a scam. We called and they said “hold” and played music for about five minutes. We never go to talk to anyone.
    In this world nothing is free. And if it, is they probably want you to attend a meeting where they pressure you to buy something like bluegreen timeshare.