Is this discount airline ticket a lost cause?

Carole Brown’s airline ticket — or lack of a ticket — is probably a lost cause. But this being Monday, when I present a borderline case, I’m not 100 percent certain of it.

Last month, Brown was shopping for an affordable ticket to fly from Quito, Ecuador, to Dallas. She found a fare that fit her budget through a website called

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Note the extra “e” — this is not

Not by a long shot, apparently.

She says Cheaperetickets didn’t accept credit cards when she made the reservation, so she wired the money to the online “agency.”

I sent a Western Union wire transfer to Oskars Petersons, an “employee of said company” in the amount of $1,180 plus a wiring fee and commission of $52 to

The money was picked up by Oskars Petersons on Tues., Sept. 18, 2012, as verified by a Promerica employee who called Western Union for verification of the collection of my payment.

You can probably guess what happened next, right? The tickets never arrived.

She explains,

I have called the UK phone number that’s listed at the bottom of each email several times and I get the same run around each time: “Your E-tickets will be issued in two hours.”

But the E-tickets have yet to be issued, nor have they refunded my money.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Whenever a business insists the money be wired, the big red “scam” light starts flashing.

Is it possible she’ll get her ticket before her scheduled departure later this month? Sure, but I’m not holding my breath.

Brown is devastated.

“I am at my wits end,” she says. “Losing approximately $1,200 is a huge amount on my husband’s Social Security Disability income!”

This looks a lot like a case I handled last year involving a discount cruise site. I tried to contact the cruise line and the fake online agency, but the money had been lost. These scams usually follow a pattern:

They advertise fares that are too good to be true.

They demand you wire money.

They string you along when you ask for the product you purchased — and then they go silent.

If Cheaperetickets is a scam, then Brown’s money is almost certainly gone. Western Union won’t be able to retrieve it, and neither will I. If Cheaperetickets is simply a misunderstood business that got its wires crossed, it’s doubtful that my involvement will change anything.

It might be interesting to contact Cheaperetickets on Brown’s behalf just to get its response, which I’m sure would make for some interesting reading.

There are a few valuable takeaways for the rest of us. In addition to never wiring money, do business with a company you know, not a fly-by-night operation thousands of miles away and located outside the jurisdiction of your nation’s courts.

I’m reluctant to get involved in this one, mostly because I don’t think I could help. But I’m willing to give it a shot.

88 thoughts on “Is this discount airline ticket a lost cause?

  1. Chris, I feel bad for the lady but she wired money and it’s not coming back. Don’t waste your time. The work you do is valuable so please use your time wisely.

  2. Stupidity tax.
    If you don’t have $1200 of a “disability income” to lose, then why are you WIRING MONEY to a stranger on the internet? That’s the interwebbz equivalent of handing it over to a guy who shows up with “extra materials” and offers to “fix your driveway.”


    Sorry, file this one under S for Stupidity Tax and move on.

    Unless the OP has $5K to spare? In that case, I’m a Nigerian Prince who needs $5K to smuggle my fortune out and I’ll split it with her.


    1. *Snerk* Your brand of snark is like a good cup of coffee in the morning (I can’t really drink coffee but do so appreciate it). You made me laugh because my dad did show up to an older ladies house with extra materials to fix her driveway. Of course it was a small town and he did it for free and he had the extra materials because he owns a construction company. Of course she mistook him for his brother so he didn’t even get the credit for the good deed but it didn’t matter to him, he and his siblings were raised to help if they could help. Now in a bigger place like San Diego if someone showed up with that offer then of course the answer is no. Definately stupidity tax on this one. Number one lesson on this site is DO NOT WIRE MONEY. Always pay with a method that offers you protection.

    2. This reminds me of that commercial where this blond woman insists that everything on the Internet is true as proven by her French model boyfriend whom she met online…Some people, especially older people, tend to accept that information given to them in an authoritative manner must be accurate and true…I blame Tom Brokaw!

  3. I think you should look into this, if nothing else to determine what type of business “cheaperetickets” really is. The web site loads OK, but the booking engine didn’t work for me (connection to server failed when trying to search itineraries), but they seem to be a UK company “Cheaper Etickets Ltd.” with a real UK (toll) phone number. I called the number during UK business hours, however, and got a generic, “the person you are trying to reach is not available” without a company name, which is suspicious.

    They are listed as an IATA accredited agent; they list Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal as their payment methods and a FAQ and terms/conditions that although simply written, could be acceptable for a small business. Their booking engine is using Travelport, a common industry system. All in all if it’s a scam they’ve done a lot to appear legit… something that I think bears investigating, and perhaps bringing up with the IATA and UK consumer protection agencies if they are indeed a fake agency.

    I do wonder if the user’s communications got intercepted somehow… like we’ve seen with AirBNB?

  4. Chris .. I agree with you 100% with the exception of the wiring. Occassionally, we will have clients need to wire money to us but … A legit business is going to ask for an ACH wire or overseas wire direct to their bank account. They aren’t going to use Western Union that allows wires to be picked up at any branch not just the designated one. For me, that was the dead giveaway that this was a scam.

    1. Chris, I think you should give it a try, as jpp42 says, it might be a real company with some kind of misunderstanding or who has been hacked. Or if a scam, you would do a great favor to IATA and UK consumer protection to alert them to it. That woudl be a good result even if not the one for which you were asked.
      Perhaps some of the readers across the pond can clarify, but I think wiring money is more common in England and Europe. I have wired money to an English tour organizer for a trip in India and all went very well and I am trying to work it into my schedule to go again with them. I have also wired money to pay for items I ordered in Africa from a business that I knew well (not to a Nigerian prince!!) and all was perfect there. I did NOT wire to Western Union – I agree with John Baker, that would be a danger signal to me – but simply wiring is not always evil. Even my son’s boarding school prints the instructions for wire transfers on the tuition invoice.

      1. I live in Australia, and domestic bank transfers (similar to the US “ACH transfer”) are a very common method of payment for large transactions as it saves both parties the credit card fees which can be quite large. Personal cheques have gone out of favour because the bank transfers process overnight instead of several days wait for cheques to clear. I’ve used this to pay for travel before but it was a brick-and-mortal travel agent, part of national chain, and the bank details are pre-printed on their invoice that I got from the office, so it was pretty clear it was legit. The Australia-based system requires not just the account number but the account name to match up, and the bank will only open accounts in official business names. Still not that’s perfect protection, and you do lose the “chargeback” features of the credit card. So it really makes sense only for companies that you’re confident in.

    2. I refuse to do business with anyone who doesn’t take a credit card. I had found a “Belize Expert” on Conde Nast’s listing. I contacted her and discussed what I wanted out of my trip. After she sends me the itinerary, she demands payment on all hotels upfront via wire. I told her I do not wire money under any circumstance but I would be willing to give her a CC#. Nope, didn’t want it.

      I walked away from that, despite her ridiculous threats to “sue” me for the “time” I cost her. Try that, sister. Come on up to the states and we’ll see how that goes for you.

      I wrote to CNT and she was there for awhile, but I don’t think she’s currently listed as one of Perrin’s Experts. Thank goodness, because she is probably a scam waiting to happen if she only works in wired money to a developing country.

      1. I wanted to rent an apartment in Buenos Aires and the owner wanted me to wire money to him at Western Union. I wanted to do a bank transfer. He said his bank was in Italy.
        I must have “stupid” written on my head some days.
        I couldn’t run fast enough away from this one.

        1. And this, folks, is the perfect example of a NON-VICTIM! Good job in recognizing the red flags and running away.

          Apartment rentals are one of the leading types of advance-fee fraud today. It’s so easy for a scammer to post a listing for some random apartment, convince potential tenants that they are dealing with the actual landlord, get the money through wire or bank transfer, and then disappear. In fact there is an entire forum on this type of scam on Scamwarners.

          Good for you! If more people had your kind of “stupid”, scammers would be put out of business.

  5. Too funny. The top embedded ad within the column is for CheapOair. Hmmm.
    Not funny about Ms. Brown, but I’m afraid she’s been taken.

  6. I’d be willing to bet this “business” is a scam that merely used the slightly altered name of a true travel business to fleece customers. Maybe after doing research on the origin of the website and whoever picked up the wire, you might be able to find one person Carole Brown could sue. That’s a big maybe, and it’s altogether likely that the suit won’t go anywhere-it’s a matter of “caveat emptor” (make sure you’re doing business with a legitimate company before you give them any money).

    1. The website is registered by a Chinese company ( whose own website does not seem to exist. The contact email also appears to be gibberish.

      The poor customer is not the first person to get scammed, but nothing here points to a legitimate company 🙁 I very much doubt that Chris would get any kind of meaningful reply from them.

      1. Like I said, it’s a matter of caveat emptor. Since they appear to be phony, I don’t think Chris can do anything either.

    1. She’ll get right on that as soon as she’s done paying the fly-by-night roofer 100% upfront and wires the money to Africa so the general’s family can free up the billions that they have coming to them.

  7. Hey, life’s an adventure. I know you are busy Chris, but it might be interesting to look into. I investigate scams all the time. They provide for some interesting stories, and in addition, you could do a service by alerting others if it is determined to be a scam. I agree with others that the request to wire money is not always a scam, but its the way you wire the money that is the tip off…(I’m sure you know this and were referrring to the fact it was a Western Union wire, are which always sketchy situations – wires direct to banks, no, but consumers who don’t deal in international transcations much mostly do not know the distinction).

    1. Actually @comanchepilot:disqus due to CC fraud, my business won’t take CC when someone that we don’t have relationship with wants to do something at the last minute since most of our business is by phone and internet. Depending on how cloase the event is, we switch to checks and then certified check / wire.
      The risk of CC fraud is just too high.

        1. Do to the nature of our business, we have the benefit of time. Last minute for us still gives us a week to make sure it clears. Almost everyone chooses to do the ACH transfer instead of the check because its faster and then they have my bank details in case of fraud on my end.

          1. I don’t know what your business is, but I’d be very hesitant to advise any of my clients to do business over the phone or internet unless they can use a credit card.

            And while ACH is infinitely better than Western Union, I wouldn’t advise my clients to use that option if the business is located outside of the US, assuming that’s even an option.

          1. LOL fake cashiers checks are seen all the time. Heck, we scambaiters collect them! I’ve got a stack of them. It’s one of the most common ways scammers fool their victims…they can make the checks look so real the victim’s bank doesn’t even know they are fake. The problem is that by the time your bank discovers they ARE fake, you’ve already withdrawn the money from your account and wired it to the scammers. So once again…POOF…the money is gone, and yet another scammer laughs all the way to the Mercedes Benz dealer.

  8. The usual first sign that a business is a scam is that they ask you to wire money through Western Union. This consumer has learned an expensive lesson.

    The site advertises that they take Visa, MC and PayPal. When you attempt to pay they tell you that they temporarily cannot accept Visa, MC. When you select PayPal they tell you that they will send an email with instructions, This is not how PayPal works. This site should be reported.

    1. The message that showed up for me is that they only accept local Danish cards – Danknort.
      So, they give UK and HK phone numbers, they are based out of Valencia Spain, their domain registrar lists *CHINESE* email addresses (not Hong Kong) and they only accept Danish Credit Cards…wow! Try following *THAT* spaghetti trail!

      1. This scam website posts an IATA logo, and it would be nice if IATA had a means by which consumers can confirm if a particular business entity is a member, and if so, its “official” URL. Other known membership organizations might also be of use in verifying their members. Certainly, first hand experience from individuals known personally is very good.

        But otherwise I think it is difficult to provide any single method of verification, as scam artists are constantly seeking new methods of separating victims from their money.

    1. Looking at Whois is also the first thing I did when reading this story. While not as useful as it might once have been, at least the whois listing did show a Chinese registrar, whose website is in Chinese only. Thus, it becomes less likely that a company based either in the U.K. or in Spain would be involved. There is a telephone number listed on the website with country code 852, Hong Kong.

      Moreover, when searching for the alleged underlying company, “FK Ticket,” nothing comes up with that name being located in Valencia. Indeed, the company’s map pinpoints Valencia, but gives no address. Zooming in on the map, it can be seen that it pinpoints a location on Calle de los Carteros in a residential neighborhood of Valencia. While this could possibly be a legitimate home-based business, the absence of a commercial address gives further concern.

      If one tries to book tickets, and pay for them, there is a radio button for selecting various payment methods, among which is “Pay now by credit card.” But selecting this button leads to the response “We only accept local Danish cards – Danknort, sorry for the inconvenience.” “Danknort” is a misspelling of the Danish credit card “Dankort.” And while Dankort is associated with Visa, the website shows the MasterCard logo and alludes to American Express. Why would this website claim Denmark to be local, given its alleged connections only to the U.K., Spain, and Hong Kong?

      To me, this appears to be a well-constructed scam website.

      1. Apparently there are many other similar sites:

        Look at just one day of new registrations for the same outfit:

        Registrant Contact:
        Louise Bourgouin
        +33.0405372007 fax: +33.0405372007
        82 rue Beauvau
        Marseille Marseille 13001

        Obviously bogus since Louise Bourgouin is a French Actress and the address is right in front of the Marseilles Opera house.

        The report on SkySearcherOnline is quite scary since this group is very sophisticated and can print bogus e-tickets.

        1. Thanks for doing the homework, Tony. You would make an excellent scambaiter. 😉 Go check out 419eater dot com! (I’ve been doing it for years, which is how I know so much about advance-fee fraud.)

          1. I know, right? Well done, TonyA!

            By the way, if anyone wants to have a questionable website thoroughly researched before you buy something from them, just post a question on scamwarners dot come. There’s a forum for fake websites queries. The dedicated volunteers there will do a similar search, and can tell you for sure whether or not it’s a fake website. They know their stuff over there, I promise you.

        2. Are these web sites really using Travelport to to provide the interface the flight schedules? Shouldn’t Travelport be able to block them if it’s made aware these are scam sites?

  9. The cost of sending money through Western Union, as opposed to a real bank wire, are so high that no legitimate business would ever use that method of payment. This ticket operation is a scam, and mediation is not going to help.

  10. I say look into it just because I would like to see what reaction they have. I highly doubt she will ever get her money back, unfortunately. When will people learn NOT to wire money?

  11. For a trek in Peru we had to wire money once. We knew it was a gamble but it turned out to be legit and everything went well. It’s always unnerving to deviate from the standard booking methods, but it’s important to recognize that if you can’t afford the gamble, you shouldn’t take it.

  12. If you think there’s at least a 10% chance of getting any type of resolution, I think any scam is worth pursuing if only to at least cause the scammers some type of irritation, otherwise they keep scamming with impunity. Do I think the OP deserves mediation? Probably not. She seems like the type of person who should stick to brick and mortar services. The Internet can be a dangerous place for the unarmed.

    1. There is not even a 1% chance of getting any type of resolution. The website is fake. There’s no business, no travel agency, no plane tickets. They are anonymous scammers preying on the gullible. The money was picked up at some rural Western Union office in China that doesn’t bother to check IDs. Good luck getting Chinese law enforcement involved.

      Nothing that anyone does will cause them irritation. As long as they keep pulling in the gullible, they’ll keep creating their fake websites, which will keep cropping up like cockroaches.

      Scammers will keep scamming with impunity as long as people continue to be willing to blind-wire money to strangers.

  13. Go for this one! I am interested if you can do a thing. I think that it will end up with a major case of anxiety, but it might be fun to expose a thief. It takes approximately 1.2 seconds for me to issue the ticket after making the booking. HB: – issued! It still is Carole’s fault that she did not use a real live agent for an international trip. It is normally a $30.00 – $50.00 service charge to do it right with a real live person, then you have a written itinerary, a ticket receipt and an agent to yell help to when something comes up.

    1. And how do you propose he “go for it” and “expose a thief”?

      There is no company. There is no travel agency. There are a bunch of scammers working in Hong Kong or China, making fake websites that convince rubes to blind-wire money to them. They pick the money up at rural Western Union offices where nobody checks IDs. And then they laugh and create new fake websites and scam more gullible people into throwing their money away.

      The crime didn’t happen in the US. It happened in China. How do you propose Christopher should help? Do you think that he can somehow persuade Chinese law enforcement to go after them?


    2. Check out the prices offered by the website. They “sell” to the public at prices lower than the largest airline ticket consolidators can sell to you and me (i.e. travel agents). The fares are so unbelievably cheap that they are actually that – unbelievable.

      When people see and drool about these amazing prices, they fall for the scam. I am surprised why search companies display them as sponsored listings. There is no way a new and fake travel agency will come up on the top of a search engine result without paying the search engine. IMO, search engines are part of the problem, too.

  14. “Note the extra “e” — this is not”

    Actually, two extra “e”s separated by an “r.” The website is Shows how similar addresses can appear even when one is fully aware they’re not the same. (Was that intentional on your part, Chris?)

  15. If you have the time to read through their website, they have so many inconsistencies that are red flags.

    They say they are based in Spain but they list U.K. and Hong Kong phone numbers. No phone numbers or addresses in Spain are listed.
    They say the use Amadeus GDS software but they put the logo of Travelport (another GDS company).
    They say that services are provided by FK Ticket, Ltd. but the T&Cs are by TALMAIN LLP and by TA Affiliates and Companies.

    For your convenience I copied the appropriate parts here:

    From their ABOUT page …

    Cheaper Etickets Ltd, is a travel agency owned by FK Ticket Ltd. We are based in Valencia, Spain and have offices in Alicante, Spain and London, UK.

    All services are provided by FK Ticket, Ltd.: flight information, fares and offers are obtained through AMADEUS software.

    FK Ticket, Ltd., Valencia, Spain, International Travel Licence № AJT128189-281/24.

    Phone Numbers:
    +44 (0) 20-3286-9414 (UK)
    +852-8191-1864 (HK)

    From their FAQ page …

    Where is your company located?
    Our main office is located Valencia, Spain, we also have sales office in London, UK and Finance department in Alicante, Spain. If you would like to place an order over the phone or have questions about your existing order, please call our UK number: +44 (0) 20-3286-9414 (UK).
    If you have general questions about the company, or would like to request more information on an existing order, please call our Hong Kong number: +852-8191-1864 (HK). You can also contact us by email at [email protected]

    Why are your ticket prices so low?
    Our company purchases millions of air miles from other travel agents and companies and uses them to obtain big discounts from air companies, this allows us to sell tickets at a bigger discount. Unfortunately this means that you wont be able to use your frequest flyer number/air miles account with any purchase submitted through us.

    From their T&C page …

    Welcome to the Cheaper Etickets website (the “Website”). This Website is provided solely to assist customers in gathering travel information, determining the availability of travel-related goods and services, making legitimate reservations or otherwise transacting business with travel suppliers, and for no other purposes. The terms “we”, “us”, “our” and “Cheaper Etickets” refer to Cheaper Etickets and TALMAIN LLP. The term “you” refers to the customer visiting the Website and/or booking a reservation through us on this Website, or through our customer service agents.

    We appreciate hearing from you. Please be aware that by submitting content to this Website by electronic mail, postings on this Website or otherwise, including any hotel reviews, questions, comments, suggestions, ideas or the like contained in any submissions (collectively, “Submissions”), you grant Cheaper Etickets, Ltd., and its subsidiaries and corporate affiliates (collectively, the “TA Companies”) and the affiliated, co-branded and/or linked website partners through whom we provide service (collectively, the “TA Affiliates”), a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sublicensable right to (a) use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter devised; and (b) use the name that you submit in connection with such Submission. You acknowledge that the TA Companies may choose to provide attribution of your comments or reviews (for example, listing your name and hometown on a hotel review that you submit) at our discretion, and that such submissions may be shared with our supplier partners. You further grant the TA Companies the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your or the TA Companies’ rights in the Submissions by a breach of this Agreement.

    1. It’s all lies. There is no “company”. There’s no travel agency. There’s no “LLP”. The phone numbers are untraceable cellphone numbers. There are no plane tickets, no agreements with airlines. There’s no business.

      There are just a bunch of criminals who set up fake websites and convince rubes to blind-wire them money, using fake names, which they pick up at foreign Western Union offices that don’t ask for ID.

      When will people realize that wiring money is no different than throwing it off a bridge and hoping the wind will land it in the lap of someone who will actually give them something for it?

      It won’t.

  16. Well, I think you should help to the best of your ability because she is clearly the one who has been wronged. However, it is pretty clear that the company is a scam and there is likely little you can do, being a consumer advocate and not law enforcement.

    It is a good reminder that wiring money is really no different from handing $1000 in cash to some guy on the street who promises to get you a ticket.

    1. How do you propose he should “help”? There’s nothing to help. Ms Brown might as well have tossed her money off a bridge, hoping it would land in the hands of someone who’s going to give her a plane ticket. This transaction had about as much likelihood of success.

      Nobody has any way of finding the guys who got the money. The website is a fake site, probably run out of an internet cafe somewhere in China. And good luck getting Chinese law enforcement to do anything.

    1. The FBI won’t do anything. It’s not a domestic crime. It’s a bunch of low-life scammers operating a fake website out of an internet cafe in some anonymous city in China. Nobody can or will do anything about it. The crime didn’t happen here in the US. And good luck getting Chinese law enforcement to do anything.

      There is only one way to stop the scammers: DON’T WIRE MONEY TO STRANGERS. If people stopped wiring money to strangers, scams such as these would disappear.

  17. I have to say. I checked out their prices and they are really “too good to be true” Several red-flags popped up: When I got my itinerary, it lists at the bottom of the screen a UK and an HK phone number. Clicking the About Company link, it says that it is an agency owned by FK Ticket LTD based out of Valencia Spain. That’s too many concerns for me!
    I don’t know why the OP had to wire money…it says right on the main page they honor Visa, Paypal and MC.
    Another red flag is when I do a Who-is on, it gives me chinese contacts. *NOT* Hong Kong!
    And another red flag…if you google “fk ticket, ltd” you get nothing…yeah…this is a scam…

    1. Yes, the website would either have to be a vast global business empire with locations scattered worldwide… or a scam. My spider-sense is screaming scam. (Though I do personally know of some small software companies where principals are located all over the world, coordinate the company via the Internet, and so things like various registrations do end up being in different countries… but they are upfront about it.)

      “I don’t know why the OP had to wire money…it says right on the main page they honor Visa, Paypal and MC.”

      Yes, and everything written on a website is true and accurate. As related above… when you try to make a credit card payment, the software is programmed to say that there is a problem accepting credit card for the moment. If you try Paypal, you get instructions that seem like Paypal instructions until they diverge…

      … that’s not even as sneaky as it gets. They could pretend to process the credit card payment, then say there was an issue (“communicating with your bank”, “verifying the transaction”, etc.). I get that on occasion even on sites I know for certain to be legitimate. Then the scammers have a message that you can either try again later (“and lose that great fare!”) or “for your convenience” offer an alternate payment method, like wiring money to some guy you don’t know.

      The key is to make people think “wiring money” is due to a unusual and temporary circumstance, when it is standard operating procedure to separate you from your money.

      As for always insisting on credit card payments, some banking systems (South Korea, for one) have gotten more strict on foreign transactions, requiring 3dSecure (aka VerifiedByVisa). In Europe, credit card forms will often not ask for home address, a standard cross-check in the US, or be unable to accept a US address with zip code and state. Guess what happens when your attempt to pay a legitimate business by credit card fails because of a mismatch with the way cards are usually run in your home country: try again… or bank transfer.

      Yes, almost no legitimate business will ask for Western Union, but most people do not understand the distinction between the WU services that get abused and bank transfers that are “wired” or go through ACH, especially in the US where bank transfers are unusual beyond Direct Deposit and some monthly bills.

      The lesson is as always, be wary of any unknown business. I once fly an airline out of New York I had never heard of… the ticket price was so good that up to the moment I saw their check-in gate I still had my doubts. But I paid by credit card and checked multiply independent authoritative sources before booking.

  18. There’s nothing to mediate. What’s happened here is a wire-fraud crime (aka 419 crime), not a customer service issue. The people who run the website are anonymous criminals located in China. The FBI can’t do anything about it – they have no address, they are located in a foreign nation, they are no different than Nigerian scammers who tell people that they will share $20 million dollars with them if they wire money to them, or convince them that they’ve won the “UK Microsoft Lottery” to the tune of $10 million if they will only wire $1500 in fees. And yes, people still fall for these ruses.

    When will people learn that anyone who asks you to wire money to them is a SCAMMER? (And yes, I know that there are legitimate businesses who use Western Union, but there ARE ways to tell.)

  19. Where was the money picked up? Is there an Office of Consumer Protection or other similar agency there? Hell, is there a local news station with a “Consumer Report” who might be interested in booking a cheap, short-haul ticket and seeing who shows up to collect payment?

    1. What people need to understand is that there is no law enforcement for this type of crime in most countries where the criminals operate. Scams such as these happen every day…the scammers are often anonymous criminals working out of internet cafes in foreign nations, using fake names. Law enforcement in China (or Nigeria, or Ghana, or Amsterdam – also hotbeds of internet scammers) will not do anything.

      There is one, and ONLY one way to stop the scammers. I’ll put it in capitol letters so maybe, just maybe, it will grab someone’s attention:


      Simple. Just don’t do it.

      Yes, there are some legitimate organizations that will ask for money to be wired. These are few and far between, and they will usually take other forms of payment as well…they will sometimes ask you to wire money so as to avoid the credit card charges, and will charge you less for doing so. DON’T DO IT! Even if it saves you money. Wiring money is like tossing it over a bridge and hoping the guy at the bottom is going to catch it. There is no protection, and no recourse once the money is picked up. There are no controls, no “agency” looking for the scammers, no law enforcement efforts to catch them. It’s not worth the small savings you might get by wiring money vs. using your credit card.

      Just say no to wiring money.

        1. And yet another hallmark of internet scammers. Banks are far less controlled in foreign countries. Scammers open up accounts with fake IDs, get the money transferred, then close the accounts and disappear into the wind. Good luck getting anything out of a foreign bank.

          1. Are you disputing that this website is fake, and that these guys are scammers? Simply because they claim that you can pay them through a bank transfer? Because if so, you are a scam waiting to happen.

            UK banks have branches in other countries, where they are far more lax about IDs than in the US or UK. Go ahead, try it. Buy a ticket from this fake company, and pay for it with a bank transfer. I dare you.

            Be sure to come back and tell us how much money you lost.

            Want to read more stories of the millions of dollars lost to scammers through bank transfers? Go read up on Scamwarners dot com. Or 419eater dot com. It’s just another way scammers take your money.

            We scambaiters actually like it when we hear of someone losing money to a scammer via bank transfer. We have contacts in the banking industry who will take reports of scammer-owned bank accounts and get them shut down.

            It doesn’t get your money back, and all they do is open up another account, but at least it might save someone who is about to become a scam victim…when they try to transfer money to the scammer’s account, their bank will tell them the account has been closed. This will often make the victim question the legitimacy of the scammer, and stop them.

            But then again it sometimes doesn’t. You’d be surprised how many will just contact their scammer and say, hey your account is closed, and the scammer will give them their new account number, and BOOM – back in business.

            Believe it or not, I know what I’m talking about.

          2. No, I’m saying that a major UK bank may be interested in knowing that a criminal is using a local UK branch for fraudulent money transfers. Go through the booking process yourself, choose to pay by bank transfer and you’ll see. I’m sure the bank doesn’t know- yet- but once they did you’d think they would be partially responsible for further fraudulent money transfers into that account.

          3. Okay, thanks for the clarification. Good to see that you *get it*. We need more people to *get it*.

            Unfortunately the bank is not responsible, and won’t do anything other than shut down any accounts that you can prove are being used for criminal activities. But that doesn’t get your money back. The money is gone, already in the pockets of the criminals. All it does is create a minor problem for the scammers, as they have to then go and open up another account. But it can (as explained above) stop some scams in progress, as any current victims who are trying to wire money into the closed account will be told by their bank that the destination account is closed. This MIGHT give some victims enough pause for thought to actually stop working with the scammers. Then again, it might not.

            I know all this from first-hand experience. I do volunteer work for a scam victim support organization.

            Trust me, the banks know they are being used for scams. I can’t even tell you how many bank accounts my organization has gotten shut down. But that is often after enough people lost money to the scammers that this account came to our attention through reports from scam victims. We get accounts shut down all the time.

            Sadly, we know that the scammers will just fire up another one, and the scam will continue. That’s why it’s all about EDUCATION. If we get the word out enough, maybe people will stop sending money to scammers.

          4. I love all the “down” arrows my completely truthful comments are getting. I can only surmise that they are either:

            a) Potential scam victims who don’t want to hear the truth, preferring to leave their heads stuck in the sand


            b) Scammers who don’t like it that I’m exposing their tactics

            Either way, it’s entertaining! All I’m trying to do is help educate the public about how scams work and how to avoid them…and somebody keeps clicking the down arrow. Funny!

          5. This comment was flagged by a moderator because it was off-topic. I am approving it because it is an important observation.

            No one here likes the up and down arrows, either. As soon as I figure out a way to disable them, I will. (Curse you, Disqus 2012!)

          6. Thanks Christopher. 🙂 I agree the down arrows suck. But I promise you the ones in this article don’t hurt my feelings. I figure they are probably done by Colonel Elijar Kubu from Lagos, Nigeria!

      1. Actually, in some states here in the US, there are Seller of Travel laws that will protect you IF you follow them. For example, if the purchaser lives in the State of CA and the seller of the travel also is located and registered to sell travel in CA, which you can verify by checking the Attorney General’s website and runs off with your money, you are protected and will get your money back.
        So how good a deal is worth what the OP did? The saying, Fools and Their Money are Soon Parted, is not new and is proven daily by many.

        1. Remember, the scammers in this case are not even in the US. According to a search on their website, they are in Hong Kong. There are no laws in the US that will protect American citizens from advance-fee fraud in other countries.

          The ONLY way to protect yourself is to never wire money to strangers.

          1. That is why you make purchases where you have consumer protection. This woman was making a one way international airline ticket purchase to a company she never worked with before and she wired them money with no safety net and writes to Chris for help. Why didn’t she think if this BEFORE wiring the money? All Chris can do now is restate the errors of her ways so others might pay attention and not get caught. But you know it will happen, again and again.
            What is up with the one down arrow on your post. What would someone not like about you have said?

          2. LOL I’m getting down arrows on all of my posts today. Methinks the scammers are reading this site, and don’t appreciate my revealing their scammy tactics! 😉

    2. @LGandaB:disqus

      Unfortunately, that’s almost impossible. When you send something via Western Union, it doesn’t go to a specific destination. It goes into the Western Union system and can be picked up anywhere there is a Western Union. The news station would have no way of knowing where the scammers picked up the money.

  20. I think by posting this sad situation, you are doing a good service, but others will still get burned as their common sense goes right out the window when it comes to money which isn’t limited to internet deals. My neighbor, college educated, mom of many, lost money to a man who called her about a ‘deal’. Fortunately her common sense came back when the man called for the next deal that cost hundreds of dollars more. She got authorities involved in the second deal but they haven’t caught the scammer, yet. $25 is a cheap lesson but she knew better but still fell for it. WHY?

  21. If anyone is interested in learning more about advance fee fraud (which is what this is), go to scamwarners dot com. There are a bazillion ways in which scammers manage to persuade the gullible to wire them money. The classic “Nigerian scam” is only one of them…and that one’s gotten so much press in recent years that the return rate for those scams has dropped dramatically. (Although believe, there are plenty of people still falling for it.)

    But fake websites abound, offering all manner of services to people if they will just wire them money. Vacation rental scams…job scams…fake hotel booking websites…gold purchasing…oil investments…loans and financial services…the list is endless, and the scammers get more creative every year. But what they all, everyone of them, have in common is: they want you to pay for their services through either Western Union, or bank transfer. And you don’t receive anything until after you pay.

    RED FLAG: Any company, especially one in another country, that asks you to either wire money or do a bank transfer, is a SCAMMER.

    1. Alas, you are right. A salesman friend of mine was recruited to sell “a revolutionary solar panel”. Somehow this magic solar panel produces more energy than it takes in. That’s a trick worthy of Dumbledore or Gandalf. Fortunately I dissuaded him. There are scammers all over the place and anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.

  22. If my husband had Social Security disability income, I surely would not be flying internationally.
    Chris, give this one a pass.

  23. There are some reputable travel businesses that require money to be wired to an account. I have at times done business with them. However, I would certainly learn the company’s reputation first before doing so.

    1. Let’s be sure we’re using terms consistently:

      “Wiring” money usually means using a company such as Western Union or Money Gram to send money to a person’s name. There are no “accounts” involved, no banks, nothing to trace. You send the money to a person’s name. Any person who presents themselves at any Western Union office with an ID showing that name, and having the MTCN (Money Control Transfer Number), will be handed the cash, and can then walk out of the office and disappear into the wind. There is no way to trace it, no accountability, nothing that can be done.

      There are also “bank transfers”. These are only marginally safer: the person must have been able to open up a bank account. And if the recipient is in the US, or is an actual, verifiable business entity, your money will go into that person’s account and if you don’t get the service paid for, you may have some recourse through the bank.

      But the moment your bank transfer involves an account in a country other than the US, all bets are off. Criminals open bank accounts in other countries using fake IDs all the time. They collect as much money from gullible victims as they can into that account until finally somebody reports the account, and it gets closed down. But here’s the rub: NOTHING HAPPENS TO THE SCAMMER. He’ll just walk away with your cash, and open another account. This happens all the time in countries that are hot-beds for scam activity: Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, the Netherlands, Russia, China.

      Yes, there are legitimate businesses who want you to either wire or bank-transfer money to them, in order to save on the small percentage that credit card companies charge. But unless you know FOR SURE that this is a legitimate business, it’s just not worth the risk. These legitimate businesses will also usually offer other, more protected payment options (e.g. credit cards), and will charge you more. If you want to avoid getting scammed, pay the higher cost to use your credit card.

      Doing otherwise is taking a gamble with your money. But hey, if you want to toss your money over a bridge and hope that it doesn’t go floating off into the wind, go for it! It’s your money.

      1. Actually, that’s not completely correct. There are several types of wire transfers. There is the Western union private wire which is where the criminals tend to hang out. As you correctly state, be very very careful using that.

        In fact, a client bounced a check and sent me a Western Union to replace the check. The Western union office issued me a Western Union check. The bank manager told me in no uncertain terms he was accepting it only because he knew me and I represented that I knew the client (which I did)

        There is also the bank wire. Bank A “wires” the money to Bank B. This transaction bypasses the ACH system (I believe) and can be used domestically and internationally. This is actually a preferred method of doing large transaction business when the parties are already acquainted with each other. I have clients from Europe and Asia that use this method to pay for my legal services.

        But regardless, if the seller doesn’t take credit cards, I’m not doing business unless we’ve already established a relationship;.

  24. This is another case of buy beware, I voted yes as there is nothing to lose by you mediating this case, but it is hard to feel sorry for someone who does not investigate the company before handing over money, especially one that she had never heard of.

  25. Yep, nothing to mediate. Unfortunate, yes. But solvable, no. She got scammed and the money is long-gone. It never went to any kind of actual reservation; just the scammer’s pocket.

  26. Mr. Elliot, please don’t waste your time getting involved. This woman must pay the “stupid” tax, and move on. Besides, you will not get the money back either, it’s now the possession of a member of the legions of Nigerian bank scammers who are still easily able to pluck the gullible, the sadly simple minded, and those who blatantly refuse to learn from the massive, widespread campaign to teach people NEVER to wire money to strangers. If you ALWAYS pay for this sort of thing with a credit card, you will be protected. If you ALWAYS deal with known companies you are safe. If Mrs. Brown had booked this through a major airlines the price would have been higher but she’d have actually gotten a ticket.

  27. I voted yes to mediate only because, ( I’m ) curious to know how far you will get with this company. They say, you can only teach people a GOOD lesson if you hit them in the POCKET real hard…

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