Holy smokes, you've got to hear this story and be careful! An elderly Australian couple won an all-expenses-paid vacation to Canada. The gift came through a travel site which seemed totally legit. The excited couple, a 72-year-old man and his 64-year-old wife, packed up and went on their dream holiday. They stayed in a paid hotel for seven days, and even got new set of luggage as part of their winnings. Once they arrived back home, however, something about the new luggage bugged them. It's unclear what. But while still in the airport, they reported their concerns to customs officials. So their brand spanking new luggage was opened. And there ... was millions of dollars worth of drugs!

The pair had unwittingly become mules for a drug cartel, and flew methamphetamine into Australia. They were supposed to meet a man at the airport, but instead, after police discovered their stash, the man was arrested.

Police in Australia believe the couple were part of an elaborate scam operated by the fake travel company -- which ropes in people with an all-expenses-paid trip and then gets them to carry drug-filled luggage back into their home country. Police believe the elderly are being targeted -- probably because they'll have an easier time getting through customs.

This sounds like the kind of thing that could easily happen to anyone. The wife, identified only as "Sue," says that she was online looking for holiday ideas when she entered a travel contest. Hell, everyone does that.

The travel company looked legitimate, and Sue and her husband had no reason to believe they were targeted for a scam. Their winnings included flights, the hotel, and new luggage. They swapped their old luggage for the new bags once they got to Canada.

Sue told The Australian:

Be very careful if you win anything. I could have ended up in jail for 25 years, and they could have ruined my life. So be very wary, be very careful and check everything out.
 
Some tips here to help avoid something like this happening to you:
 
- If you win a trip, check out the travel company. Call them to see if they have offices. Run their name through the Better Business Bureau or equivalent.
 
- Never accept free luggage or offer to carry any winnings back home with you -- especially luggage, but I'd also avoid clothes, purses, containers, anything you need to carry.
 
- If someone wants to meet you when you return home, that's a huge tipoff, as it will be someone wanting to collect the drugs. A real travel agency wouldn't waste time meeting you once you return home. I wouldn't even accept a free car service ride!
 
Have you ever been the target of a travel scam?


Image  via Arman Zhenikeyev/Corbis