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Help taking down scam travel agency

Help taking down scam travel agency

Old Oct 21, 18, 8:38 pm
  #1  
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Help taking down scam travel agency

Looking to the collective wisdom of the FT community for ideas on how to take down a scam "travel agency" that took my parents for a few hundred dollars and, based on online reviews, did the same to a bunch of other people as well.

The site is FareBooth(.com)

(1) It looks OK at first blush, although they try at every opportunity to get you to call in, promising lower fares. That's a red flag in and of itself - pretty much every legit airline ticket outlet charges a fee to talk to someone, they don't give you a discount.

(2) A lot of buttons on their site are fake - not connected to anything. For example, clicking on "my bookings" does nothing

(3) When you conduct a flight search you get real results back, but (1) every ticket is $25 more expensive than it should be, and (2) the results page says "only X tickets left" for each results, where X = exactly the number of seats you said you're looking for. More evidence of a scam.

(4) If you dismiss all the pop-ups asking you to call and go through the process to book a ticket, you get a screen telling you everything is confirmed instantaneously (i.e. faster than the GDS could book it) with a fake PNR. At that point they have all of your information, but you don't have a reservation. Then they can either book a reservation for you, keeping the $25 as profit, or call you and try to sell you on something else.

In my parents case they called to complete the transaction, then called later and said they canceled the reservation. My parents rebooked with United directly and thought that was the end of it with farebooth. When they got their credit card statement they found out that (1) farebooth charged a $400 fee and (2) a couple days later they made a duplicate reservation with United, which they left for a month, then called a couple weeks before the flight to cancel. The duplicate tickets were charged to their credit card by United and remain open. I'm trying to get United to refund them.

My parents filed a dispute with Capital One, but their fraud department says this is all totally legit. Farebooth's customer service won't explain what the $400 fee is for - they have several diversionary tactics. They are now saying they'll cut a deal on the $400 fee if my parents give them $800 for a new trip using the duplicate tickets they fraudulently booked (and that I hope to get United to refund).

We're still fighting this out with Capital One, but I want to see if folks have other ideas on how to escalate and how to shut these guys down. They don't have any physical contact information on their Web site, but on the credit card the fee was charged as Air Travel Services 844-434-8900 NY. It looks like the duplicate tickets were issued by an Expedia affiliate, but Expedia claims to have no information.

There's a bunch of complaints about them online, and they fraudulently use BBB and Trustpilot logos.

https://www.bbb.org/us/mo/clayton/pr...0734-310590393
https://www.judysbook.com/FareBooth-...-r39297526.htm
https://www.trustpilot.com/review/farebooth.com

Edited to add - I did some more sleuthing and found out that this seems to be one scam site of a network of up to 108 operated out of India. Would be nice if the credit card companies would take some action - I checked a few of the sites in this list out and they have similar scam/fraud reports online.

https://www.scamadviser.com/check-we....farebooth.com
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Last edited by Doppy; Oct 22, 18 at 1:38 am Reason: add more info
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Old Oct 22, 18, 12:41 pm
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I would think that if you told Capital One (or any card issuer) that you did not approve the charge, it would be refunded immediately. If CapOne doesn't do that, get a new credit card.

I'd file an actual complaint with the BBB and let them know they're using their logo.

I just made a dummy booking with Farebooth with a made-up credit card number. I think the confirmation code they give is their own internal one. I tried typing it in to united.com and it actually found the reservation but with a different United PNR.

I imagine FareBooth will cancel the ticket when the credit card declines.

Last edited by gfunkdave; Oct 22, 18 at 12:53 pm
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Old Oct 22, 18, 2:08 pm
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No offense - the only way to take down a scam travel agency is an injunction.

In other words, if this is your goal, you should ask your parents to file a suit against the agency.
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Old Oct 22, 18, 3:49 pm
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Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
I would think that if you told Capital One (or any card issuer) that you did not approve the charge, it would be refunded immediately. If CapOne doesn't do that, get a new credit card....
.
Totally agree. I am not surprised to hear that Capital One is acting unhelpfully. I view them definitely as a credit card issuer of last resort.
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Old Oct 22, 18, 6:37 pm
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Call whatever state agencies might be applicable - Secretary of State or whoever licenses travel agencies. In my state there’s a consumer protection agency. If any local TV stations have consumer reporters, see if you can get them interested. If they have a physical location, find out what the picketing laws are and proceed accordingly. Don’t say anything bad about them, just “Ask me before you do business here” or something to that effect.
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Old Oct 22, 18, 7:29 pm
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Complain to the AG of your state.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 9:46 pm
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Although, the consumer financial protection bureau isn't as responsive recently, I'd contact them. I had issues recently with being harassed about a student loan I paid off a decade ago, submitted a complaint with the CFPB and within two weeks it was solved. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
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Old Oct 24, 18, 12:23 pm
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Originally Posted by mlbcard View Post
Although, the consumer financial protection bureau isn't as responsive recently, I'd contact them. I had issues recently with being harassed about a student loan I paid off a decade ago, submitted a complaint with the CFPB and within two weeks it was solved. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
Since you mention it, here's a well-written and useful guide to dealing with credit bureaus and creditors who try to hound you for mistaken debt.

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2017/09/09/...redit-reports/
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Old Oct 24, 18, 1:56 pm
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Thanks for the suggestions about other places to file complaints. It's rather frustrating that Capital One refuses to do any investigation, nor will they provide any information about the merchant except for a phone number, so there's no way to escalate against the merchant directly.
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Old Oct 24, 18, 2:37 pm
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Originally Posted by Doppy View Post
Thanks for the suggestions about other places to file complaints. It's rather frustrating that Capital One refuses to do any investigation, nor will they provide any information about the merchant except for a phone number, so there's no way to escalate against the merchant directly.
I'm very curious about this, since the card issuer is responsible for fraud if reported within 30-60 days. Do you mean to say you have told them in no uncertain terms that this is a fraudulent transaction the cardholder didn't authorize, and they are still refusing to void it?
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Old Oct 24, 18, 7:22 pm
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Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
Since you mention it, here's a well-written and useful guide to dealing with credit bureaus and creditors who try to hound you for mistaken debt.

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2017/09/09/...redit-reports/
Thanks! This is awesome. Definitely changes how I will interact with them (or any big bureaucracy) if something like this ever comes up again. Luckily, I didn't have to go that far with my case.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 9:54 pm
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Have you considered going through their web host or domain registrar? If you've got some evidence that they're doing something wrong and that the wrong thing violates the registrar's or host's TOS you might be able to get them offline for a while with a complaint to the abuse department. It's a long shot and a short-term thing until they manage to get back online, but it might be fun to get their account suspended.
I know there have been a few hate speech groups that got kicked offline this way, but I haven't heard of it happening with a scammer. Probably have a low chance of success, but it's fairly low effort to try.
Their registrar is GoDaddy and their host is Amazon.
Good luck!
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Old Oct 26, 18, 12:32 am
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Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
I'm very curious about this, since the card issuer is responsible for fraud if reported within 30-60 days. Do you mean to say you have told them in no uncertain terms that this is a fraudulent transaction the cardholder didn't authorize, and they are still refusing to void it?
Yes. However, the merchant sent to Capital One an e-mail which allegedly proves that my parents authorized the service fee. I do know that they did send an e-mail authorizing the purchasing of the tickets at the correct fare, but unfortunately they're old and can't find the e-mail, so I haven't seen what else it might say. They said it didn't say anything about a fee. We've asked Capital One to send us the proof, though, in truth, it would be very easy to doctor an e-mail to say anything. Subsequent to this original e-mail exchange the scammer called my parents and said he was canceling the reservation, at which point they said OK, called United and confirmed the reservation had been canceled, and made a new reservation directly with United.

So even if they did authorize the service fee, the company never performed the service, and thus what is the fee for?

Originally Posted by smc333 View Post
Have you considered going through their web host or domain registrar? If you've got some evidence that they're doing something wrong and that the wrong thing violates the registrar's or host's TOS you might be able to get them offline for a while with a complaint to the abuse department. It's a long shot and a short-term thing until they manage to get back online, but it might be fun to get their account suspended.
I know there have been a few hate speech groups that got kicked offline this way, but I haven't heard of it happening with a scammer. Probably have a low chance of success, but it's fairly low effort to try.
Their registrar is GoDaddy and their host is Amazon.
Good luck!
I did go to GoDaddy, but hadn't thought of Amazon. I'll try that now. I just got a generic response from GoDaddy saying they would investigate (which I expected, they never give you details in these cases).

Last edited by Doppy; Oct 26, 18 at 12:59 am Reason: typo
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Old Oct 26, 18, 11:13 am
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Capital One sent the "proof" the merchant gave them, which seems to show this is fraud. The proof consists of an email from my parents authorizing a $1200 airfare, dated 8/11. The merchant said separately in the documentation that it was $800 paid to a consolidator ( this shows up on their statement as being charged directly by United) and $400 to the merchant.

Second, the merchant provided a narrative, which says that my parents called on 8/13, went over options, and confirmed via email that they agreed to the charges. The charges for duplicate tickets and the $400 fee are dated 8/13.

The email was dated two days before this supposed phone call, and after a telephone exchange with the merchant on 8/11 where he said he was cancelling the reservation (and as I noted above, United said it was cancelled), and they booked directly with United. The charges for the tickets booked with United that they flew on show up on their Capital One statement dated 8/11. Why would they have called the agent two days later to make a duplicate reservation?

Capital One seems unwilling to connect the dots or apply basic logic.

Just some further information, the merchant cancelled the duplicate reservation a few weeks later, before the first flight. United is holding value of $800 that can be applied to future travel (they said since the tickets were booked by a travel agency they can't refund them, but will waive the change fee). Meanwhile, the merchant is calling my parents saying he'll cut a deal on the $400 fee and let them use these tickets if they pay him $800.

Last edited by Doppy; Oct 28, 18 at 9:02 pm Reason: typo
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Old Oct 27, 18, 1:04 pm
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Have you called the police? Since this is theft then at least the police can write a report. You refer to your parents. Not sure how old they are but some states have special circumstances fro crimes against the elderly. If they belong to AARP try calling them.,
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