You must be ever vigilant that when you call an airline you are actually calling that airline. One United passenger learned the hard way.
The sad story is shared on Flyertalk. A passenger needed to change a reservation and googled United’s number. A toll-free telephone number of 855.387.0231 appeared. Turns out that was not United but an unscrupulous travel agency who paid to be well-ranked in search results.
The agent who answered pretended to be a United agent. When the passenger said he wanted to change his return date but wasn’t sure of when, the agent said he could pay the $200 change feen now and then pay no fee later when he firmed up his date. The passenger was not a frequent United flyer and assumed that United just collected the change fee first.
The agent advised him that he would send an email confirmation for the change and that the passenger would need to respond back confirming the change. He did, and the passenger failed to notice that the email was coming from firstname.lastname@example.org despite UA logos and the appearance of an official email.
Of course when he called back to actually re-schedule his trip there was no record of the change fee he paid and he had to pay it again. Now he has disputed the charge with his credit card company, though he may face an uphill battle: he did agree to the charge in writing.
If this story sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about a similar experience with “British Airways” last year.
> Read More: Scam “British Airways” Agent Defrauds My Client
There, I was able to recoup my client’s money because we acted swiftly. But the story is eerily similar…it would not surprise me if this was the same group of people wearing a different hat. The scammed passenger did some research and the director of Flightzoom.us appears to have several other companies under his belt…
It’s easy to pile on the victimized passenger for not catching the red flags. But let’s be careful in assigning blame: imagine if you google a number for an airline, call it, the agent represents himself as an agent of that airline, and proceeds to send you an email confirmation with the airline logo on it. Come on, it’s not at all surprising he fell for it.
I wanted to have some fun and called the 855.387.0231 number repeatedly. Sadly, the line is always busy. But I’ll keep trying…
Would you put all the blame on the passenger for missing the signs?