It may be a scam if …

Kathy Wymore wants to know if she’s being scammed.

She recently received an invitation to a travel club seminar.

“They say that they can get us amazing deals on hotels, cruises, car rentals, and vacation packages,” she says.

The cost? Only $7,000 for a “lifetime” membership.

“The travel club says it can get wholesale travel prices,” she says. “There are no blackout dates and they make all the arrangements for us at no extra cost.”

Wymore was amazed by the offer, which 350,000 others have already taken advantage of, according to the travel club. The only catch: A small $149 annual “fee” to maintain her lifetime membership.

“What do you think?” she asked.

I’ll get to my answer in a moment, if you can’t guess it already.

The hashtag #itmaybeascam makes the rounds intermittently on social media, and it’s interesting to see what people post as definite scams, versus possible scams.

Politicians seem to get the most attention under the #itmaybeascam, and probably for good reason. Whether you are in the R or D column — or none of the above — chances are you have strong opinions about the upcoming election. I’ll leave it at that.

I love binary, made-for-Twitter rhetoric. It’s so simple, yet sometimes so simplistic. But it sure makes for entertaining reading.

Here’s the thought it provokes: What other “It may be a scam …” scenarios are out there?

For example:

It may be a scam if …
You pay for it, but you don’t own it. The rules can change at any time. It divides “haves” from “have-nots” and foments class warfare. It turns otherwise ethical people into cheaters and liars. It’s so complicated and confusing, the federal government refuses to regulate it.

It may be a scam if …
It charges an annual membership fee and, in some cases, also has the audacity to impose a 79.9 percent interest rate. But it’s OK, as long as it follows the “disclosure” rules in the Truth in Lending Act. Because of it, Americans owe $733 billion. It actively encourages its members to collect worthless points which can be redeemed for products no one wants.

It may be a scam if …
You pay with real money, but you get a fake currency you can only use at only one business. It’s subject to fees and other restrictions, and if you lose it, the company doesn’t care and won’t replace the item. The scheme also encourages customers who are normally honest to engage in behavior that can at best be considered unethical.

Can you guess which scams I’m talking about? Of course.

In fairness, there are plenty of people who use these financial instruments every day without drama. And that’s part of the problem. When used as intended, they are often benign and have no deleterious short-term effects. Sometimes, you even appear to come out ahead.

Just like Wymore’s $7,000 travel club. Oh, she’ll travel, all right. But at some point in the near future, she’ll realize that the club she joined is a scam, and she’ll be glad she reached out to me for advice.

It’s the same way with these other swindles. You don’t realize you’ve participated in the greatest scam of a generation until you’re scrunched in the back of the plane with your family, begging a flight attendant for tap water, while those who churned multiple credit cards to score a “free” lie-flat seat are feasting on hors d’oeuvres and sipping chilled Champagne.

“Cancel immediately,” I said.

She did.

You’re welcome.

Some of you are probably saying, “Hey, I belong to a travel club and it’s benefited me.” But did you know you could have gotten the same deal with a quick online search? The other scams go the same way. They look harmless, but they are not. Too many people fall for them.

Don’t be that person.

Which is the biggest scam?

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