Scammed by a fake UA call center

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Old Feb 20, 19, 11:50 am
  #1  
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Scammed by a fake UA call center

This is quite embarrassing for me, I'm normally very vigilant and never fall for these kind of scams.

Recently I needed to re-book the return leg of an international ticket. Instead of checking the UA reservations phone number from their website, I did a Google search for "united reservations number". I guess these scammers somehow managed to temporarily get a ranking for this specific search phrase. It showed the phone number (855)387-0231 on the top snippet of the search results.

So I called this phone number and they pretended to be United Airlines and took all the information needed to access my booking on the UA website. I told them that I needed to re-book the return leg of my ticket, but I wasn't sure of the date yet. They told me I could cancel the booking for a $200 fee and then call back later to re-book and only pay the fare difference (if any). I thought this was strange because normally the re-booking fee is charged when you re-book, not when you cancel. But I have never done this with UA before so thought maybe that's how they did it.

Then they told me they would send me an email to confirm the cancellation of my booking and that I needed to reply to the email to confirm that I agreed with the cancellation.

When I called the real UA number to re-book the ticket, they had no record of this $200 payment and told me that I still needed to pay the re-booking fee (which is actually $191). This is when I realized that I was scammed.

Upon checking this email more carefully, it was made to look like it came from UA, but the sender was [email protected].

I filed a dispute with my credit card company, but I assume that they will use the email that I replied to as proof that I agreed with their $200 charge. I guess they will say that they charged me $200 for the service of accessing my booking on the UA website and cancelling my reservation for me.

I did some research to find out more information about this company. They seem to be running multiple websites and phone numbers to scam people.

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/flightszoom.com

The merchant name from my credit card statement:
TRAVEL AGENCY, IL 222013862

I did a whois look up on the domain name flightszoom.us, which their email was sent from. Here is what I found.

Registrant Name: V Shushil Kumar
Registrant Organization: Traveloes UK Ltd
Registrant Street: 199/17 Lindsay Road
Registrant City: Edinburgh
Registrant State/Province:
Edinburgh Registrant
Postal Code: EH6 6ND
Registrant Country: uk
Registrant Phone: +44.07411213054

This appears to be the company that owns this domain name, which is a travel agency registered in the UK.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/SC543286/

The director of this company is an Indian national by the name of Vivekanand SUSHIL KUMAR, who is also the director of 5 other UK registered companies (some of them are travel related).

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/o...I/appointments

So far I have reported this to UA by sending an email to [email protected] and have also made a complaint on the FTC website https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Any suggestions on what else I can do to report or expose the activities of this company / group of companies?

Of course I realize it's my own fault for falling for this scam. I should have got the UA phone number directly from their website rather than a Google search. And I should have looked at the email more carefully before I replied to it agreeing to the $200 charge. My only goal now is to bring as much exposure as possible to this company that is scamming people by impersonating UA staff.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by jiajun View Post
<snip>
This appears to be the company that owns this domain name, which is a travel agency registered in the UK.
<snip>
Any suggestions on what else I can do to report or expose the activities of this company / group of companies?
<snip>
Report to UK association of UK Travel Agents
https://www.abta.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associ..._Travel_Agents
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:04 pm
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Agent on phone promised a refund, but I donít see it. Now fear wasnít a UA agent. would be a worth a read. Likely a different company, but similar story.

You can try a charge-back, but the problem is potentially that the agency can claim that you called them, and they have a fee for assisting non-customers in such a situation, so the fee was justified.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by Mwenenzi View Post
Thanks for the suggestion, but they don't appear to be a member of ABTA so it's not possible to file a complaint.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:10 pm
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Originally Posted by docbert View Post
Agent on phone promised a refund, but I donít see it. Now fear wasnít a UA agent. would be a worth a read. Likely a different company, but similar story.

You can try a charge-back, but the problem is potentially that the agency can claim that you called them, and they have a fee for assisting non-customers in such a situation, so the fee was justified.
In this case, however, there was no assistance provided. It looks like pure fraud. They misrepresented themselves as United, and it's possible the card company will side with you. It couldn't hurt to try. I had a case of a scammer outfit like this providing "assistance" to me for renewing my drivers license. When I realized too late that it was a scam, I called my credit card company. Surprisingly, they said to try calling the company back first, and if that didn't work to do the charge-back. When I called the scam company back, they actually did reverse the charge!
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:11 pm
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I would dispute the charge. you were under the (false) impression that you were dealing directly with United Airlines. THAT is who you authorized a payment. They fraudulently pretended to be United.

Just be up front with your credit card company and see what they say. good luck.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:12 pm
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Originally Posted by docbert View Post
Agent on phone promised a refund, but I donít see it. Now fear wasnít a UA agent. would be a worth a read. Likely a different company, but similar story.

You can try a charge-back, but the problem is potentially that the agency can claim that you called them, and they have a fee for assisting non-customers in such a situation, so the fee was justified.
Yes, that sounds like a similar story.

I think you are right about the charge-back, but I tried it anyway. We'll see what happens.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:12 pm
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I think this might be best in the UK forum at some stage as more UK based people with knowledge of the best ways to resolution will see this.

Perhaps start here https://www.gov.uk/complain-company
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:14 pm
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Originally Posted by nachosdelux View Post
I would dispute the charge. you were under the (false) impression that you were dealing directly with United Airlines. THAT is who you authorized a payment. Just be up front with your credit card company and see what they say. good luck.
That is exactly what I did. I had a long conversation with Capital One and explained everything to them. The merchant has 90 days to respond to the charge-back. I will post an update here when I get the result.

Originally Posted by BBSHOPSINGER View Post
In this case, however, there was no assistance provided. It looks like pure fraud. They misrepresented themselves as United, and it's possible the card company will side with you. It couldn't hurt to try. I had a case of a scammer outfit like this providing "assistance" to me for renewing my drivers license. When I realized too late that it was a scam, I called my credit card company. Surprisingly, they said to try calling the company back first, and if that didn't work to do the charge-back. When I called the scam company back, they actually did reverse the charge!
I actually did try calling back that number (855) 387-0231, but it appears to be out of service already. They probably stopped using it after Google caught on to what they were doing and they lost their ranking for the related search term.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Feb 20, 19 at 12:40 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Silver Fox View Post
I think this might be best in the UK forum at some stage as more UK based people with knowledge of the best ways to resolution will see this.

Perhaps start here https://www.gov.uk/complain-company
Thanks for the suggestion. I went ahead and filed a complaint. And filed another one on https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk as well.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:45 pm
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Never ever trust Google for information. Aside from Facebook, Google is the biggest spreader of fake information and news for that matter (no matter what they say otherwise). A colleague of mine thought they had their Facebook account hacked and searched for Facebook customer service. Top result was a 1800 number which once he called they asked him for sensitive information like credit card details and passport number. Fortunately he texted me whilst on the phone and I told him to hang up right away.

Here's what a Fake ad on Google looks like:


I'm guessing this is what the OP saw (except for United instead of Fakebook).

These days, the only way you can get reliable information is to go directly to the horses mouth (i.e. United's website).

As for what you can do about it: If you can get a screenshot of the Google result, I'd recommend capturing the screenshot. I've seen ads which purport to be a reputable company (i.e. Facebook) which when either clicking the link or calling the number go to another website. That act by itself constitutes misrepresentation which is a form of fraud that can be tried criminally as well as through civil litigation. With respect to your credit card company, they agree to protect you from fraudulent transactions. Hence, such misrepresentation represents covered fraud.

If you are unable to find a screenshot (i.e. Google pulled the ad), contact Google Adwords directly and demand they send you evidence of the fraud. The Chief Legal Officer of Google is David Drummond and his Google email address can be found online. I have personally emailed him on several occasions and within a few minutes of sending the email the scams magically disappear. I cannot prove that David personally saw the email but I suspect had I not sent the email the scams would still be there.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:51 pm
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
Never ever trust Google for information. Aside from Facebook, Google is the biggest spreader of fake information and news for that matter (no matter what they say otherwise). A colleague of mine thought they had their Facebook account hacked and searched for Facebook customer service. Top result was a 1800 number which once he called they asked him for sensitive information like credit card details and passport number. Fortunately he texted me whilst on the phone and I told him to hang up right away.

Here's what a Fake ad on Google looks like:


I'm guessing this is what the OP saw (except for United instead of Fakebook).

These days, the only way you can get reliable information is to go directly to the horses mouth (i.e. United's website).

As for what you can do about it: If you can get a screenshot of the Google result, I'd recommend capturing the screenshot. I've seen ads which purport to be a reputable company (i.e. Facebook) which when either clicking the link or calling the number go to another website. That act by itself constitutes misrepresentation which is a form of fraud that can be tried criminally as well as through civil litigation. With respect to your credit card company, they agree to protect you from fraudulent transactions. Hence, such misrepresentation represents covered fraud.

If you are unable to find a screenshot (i.e. Google pulled the ad), contact Google Adwords directly and demand they send you evidence of the fraud. The Chief Legal Officer of Google is David Drummond and his Google email address can be found online. I have personally emailed him on several occasions and within a few minutes of sending the email the scams magically disappear. I cannot prove that David personally saw the email but I suspect had I not sent the email the scams would still be there.

Safe Travels,

James
Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, quite some time had passed until I discovered this and that phone number is no longer showing up on the search result. I didn't think it was an ad that I clicked on, but that makes more sense. It would be too difficult to get an organic ranking for that. I will try contacting Google Adwords and see if they can provide any evidence. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:55 pm
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I would submit the chargeback dispute via the website. In this case, the critical detail is that the TA represented itself to be UA. In your OP, you state, "So I called this phone number and they pretended to be United Airlines." That misrepresentation is sufficient to justify the chargeback even if the TA otherwise performed all services requested.

Chances are that the TA will never respond and is more than satisfied with however many scams it has gotten away with and will show up tomorrow as somebody else, somewhere else and under a separate phone number. But, if the TA does respond, it is important for you to have made the express point and in writing that the TA identified itself as UA.

These guys likely have a hundred shell companies ready to go and locations elsewhere to claim as their office (this one appears to be a hair salon in Edinburgh), so the issue is not a warning about this outfit. Rather, as you properly point out, the critical point when you call is to assure that you have located a number on united.com and not some other URL.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 1:02 pm
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I would recommend having a look at your browser history on the device where you accessed this fake info ASAP! Most browsers can store 2-4 weeks of browser history, perhaps even more and some even allow you to search your browser history for pages you visit allowing you to find the proverbial needle in the hay stack:


Once you found the offending Google search, you'll want to forward the keywords you search, where you searched from and phone number you dialled. Chances are they'll be able to pull up that information from the suspended ad database they likely maintain.

Safe Travels,

James

Hopefully not a dumb question to ask but should the OP take steps to secure their reservation and account? Presumably to do the rebooking she shared the confirmation number which as we can gives you keys to manage the whole reservation (including cancel/change flight/passenger) and possibly even their MilagePlus account if that was revealed in the res or with the agent. Would UA be able to reissue the ticket under a new booking number?

Safe Travels,

James

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Feb 20, 19 at 1:40 pm Reason: merging consecutive posts by same member
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Old Feb 20, 19, 1:05 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
I would submit the chargeback dispute via the website. In this case, the critical detail is that the TA represented itself to be UA. In your OP, you state, "So I called this phone number and they pretended to be United Airlines." That misrepresentation is sufficient to justify the chargeback even if the TA otherwise performed all services requested.

Chances are that the TA will never respond and is more than satisfied with however many scams it has gotten away with and will show up tomorrow as somebody else, somewhere else and under a separate phone number. But, if the TA does respond, it is important for you to have made the express point and in writing that the TA identified itself as UA.

These guys likely have a hundred shell companies ready to go and locations elsewhere to claim as their office (this one appears to be a hair salon in Edinburgh), so the issue is not a warning about this outfit. Rather, as you properly point out, the critical point when you call is to assure that you have located a number on united.com and not some other URL.
I was going to dispute it online but Capital One doesn't give enough space to write the full details on their website, so I did it over the phone. The guy I talked with was quite helpful and took many notes and I made sure to have him include the fact that this company was impersonating UA in his report. We'll see if the merchant responds or not. You might be right, they are just playing a numbers game. If they do this 10 times, maybe only 5 will catch on to what happened and file a dispute.
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