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 cheaperetickets.com.
Note the extra “e” — this is not Cheaptickets.com.
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 cheaperetickets.com.
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.
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.