She called JetBlue, but airline scammers answered. Here’s how she fought back.

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By Christopher Elliott

The newest airline call center scam may have just cost Amy Lou Masick $500. 

She wanted to call JetBlue for a flight refund, so she Googled the airline’s phone number. And up popped the number of a company that was not JetBlue.

A representative who answered the line and claimed he worked for JetBlue asked her to pay a $500 “change fee” before it would return her money. After agreeing to the charge, Masick called the real JetBlue to check her refund. That’s when the airline told her it never charged her $500 and that she didn’t even have to pay a change fee.

Fortunately, Masick had paid by credit card. Could she get her money back? The answer is complicated.

Let’s take a closer look at this alleged airline call center scam. We’ll find out:

  • How the JetBlue call center scam works.
  • How to resolve a call center scam.
  • What you need to know about call center scams.

I have to be honest: I thought Masick could get a quick refund for what looked like an obviously fraudulent charge. But I was wrong. In the end, it took her bank, her state’s attorney general and me to get her case resolved — and you will never guess how this one ended. (Hint: not like the other travel scams I deal with on this site.)

How she was “scammed” out of $500 

Masick had a ticket from Orlando to Boston on JetBlue with a connection to Provincetown, Cape Cod on Cape Air in August. She made the entire reservation through JetBlue.

A few weeks late, JetBlue emailed her with some bad news: Her connection to Provincetown was canceled.

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Masick decided to call JetBlue to check her options. So she searched for JetBlue’s phone number. 

She says a representative answered the phone “JetBlue” and after she gave the representative her flight information, he had even more bad news. (Related: Bumped from a flight and we missed our connection.)

“He said there were no more flights to Provincetown that day and there was nothing they could do,” she recalls. “At that point, I decided that I had to cancel the whole reservation.”

The “JetBlue” representative said it would charge a $500 cancellation fee. Masick reluctantly agreed to pay and gave the representative her credit card information. 

But when she didn’t get her refund, she became suspicious and called JetBlue again — this time, the real JetBlue. A representative told her that it had not canceled her flight or processed a refund. Nor had it taken her $500.

Uh-oh.

What happened to her reservation?

It turns out Masick had called a company called OrbTickets. She says it had claimed to be JetBlue and had charged her $500. When she saw the invoice, she tried to reach out to the company to undo the charge.

“I tried to contact OrbTickets several times with no luck. The phone rings and rings. I sent them an email and they did not respond,” she says.

OrbTickets bills itself as a one-stop online travel portal, “well-renowned for last-minutes [sic] flight deals and offers.” 

But I noticed something interesting about OrbTickets: It shares a Sheridan, Wyoming, address that I’ve seen on other questionable websites. Masick told me OrbTickets scammed her out of $500 and should be shut down.

But there was a much easier solution. Instead of pursuing OrbTickets, why not just dispute the charge on her credit card and claw back the money? (Here’s our complete guide to chargebacks and winning a credit card dispute.)

Masick filed a chargeback with her credit card, Barclays, but she received a quick answer. Barclays would not consider her request because the merchant “did not have the opportunity to resolve the issue.”

“I simply would like my $500 back that I was scammed out of,” she told me.

Fixing a call center scam isn’t as simple as it looks

JetBlue refunded her $1,800 tickets and offered her a $50 travel voucher for the trouble. I was confident that her credit card company would protect her. After all, it appeared OrbTickets had charged her for nothing. 

So I reached out to Barclays on her behalf. I spoke to a representative who said this wasn’t as simple as it looked. Masick had authorized the charge on her card, so technically, it wasn’t a fraudulent purchase. She would have to work directly with the merchant.

But wait. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, Masick could dispute a charge for an item she purchased but did not receive. 

And what, exactly, did she receive for her $500? It’s unclear.

It looks like OrbTickets charged her credit card instead of refunding her.

Barclays: “We’ll get back to you”

Barclays said it would reconsider its denial. In the meantime, my contact at Barclays recommended that she file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General. I passed that information along to Masick and she filed a complaint.

I also reached out to OrbTickets. It did not respond to my first request, so a week later, I contacted it again.

That’s when things started to move. Late last week, I received an email from Masick. OrbTickets had contacted her. It agreed to refund her $500, but only if she rescinded her complaint with the Florida Attorney General. 

OrbTickets also responded to my query.

“We are in touch with AMY LOU MASICK directly, as discussed with her as she is not happy with services provided we are willing to refund her the all the fees [sic] charged and she is happy to take all the complaints against us,” it said in an email.

“My question is, do you think I should follow through with their request?” she asked me.

Good question. The easiest way to get a refund would be to withdraw the complaint. But I told her if she did that, then other travelers might fall for the JetBlue call center scam. What should she do?

Here’s your refund

In the end, the pressure of the Attorney General, a new Barclays dispute investigation and a consumer advocate was too much for OrbTickets. A representative called her and offered Masick a full refund of her $500 — no strings attached.

It appears that Masick’s dispute got escalated to a higher level at Barclays, and an experienced investigator started asking OrbTickets questions like, “What was our cardmember paying you for?”

That’s a shocking resolution to me. This should have been a slam dunk. 

Barclays would not discuss the specifics of her case on the record. But it issued a general statement.

“In an age when most travel arrangements are made online, we strongly encourage consumers to be vigilant when viewing the results of online searches,” it said. “Always think twice before clicking on a link or calling a phone number you’ve found online. If you take issue with a charge on your account, immediately contact your credit card issuer, keep trying to contact the merchant, document everything, and never preclude contacting law enforcement where appropriate.”

Another look at the airline call center scam

This isn’t my first story about call center scammers. In a previous story, I described how they infiltrate Google search results and prey on travelers. But after taking a second look, I have a more nuanced picture.

Beware of fake phone numbers

Scammers don’t just manipulate Google results with misleading web pages. They also strategically place fake phone numbers within the search results. They can do that by offering a site a more convenient phone number for an airline, like a “secret” number that lets you skip to the front of the line. In fact, I found one such fake number in our database (and I quickly deleted it). A scammer may also claim an old airline number when it changes numbers, effectively using a number that was once legitimate.

The charges may be (barely) legal

Reading between the lines in Masick’s case, it appears OrbTickets charged her some kind of ticketing fee that might pass muster with an airline or credit card. However, it’s clear that she did not receive what she thought she was buying. Add the fact that she says OrbTickets pretended to be JetBlue, and you have a really problematic situation.

You can avoid a scam with a few simple questions

If you need to call an airline for any reason, make sure you’re getting the number from a reputable source. In other words, from an airline site or from a site you trust. Our research team works hard to ensure you have the right information. Once you get on the line, ask, “Do you work for the airline? Or are you an agent? What kind of charges will I see on my credit card, and where will they come from? Also, familiarize yourself with airline policies. JetBlue, for example, does not charge a fee when it cancels tickets. Under Department of Transportation regulations, it must issue a prompt refund.

Is the call center scam here to stay?

When I started covering the call center scam a month ago, I thought it was an isolated incident — a quick flare-up that resulted from Google’s algorithm change. Not so.

The call center scammers are using sophisticated techniques that go beyond successfully manipulating Google’s search algorithms. They’re giving legitimate website publishers fake call center numbers. They are developing products such as ticketing fees that look legitimate enough for credit card companies and banks. 

They’re here for the long haul, obviously.

My advice: Stay off the phone. Conduct any ticket changes or cancellations online. Otherwise, you could get scammed.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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