Is CheapOfly.com legit? Read this story before you answer

By | December 7th, 2016

Erin McBride’s sister, Natalie Gresko, was in Fiji with her family when McBride contacted us about the suspected fraud that forced her sister to buy new tickets to avoid being stranded in Los Angeles. Will we be able to help, or will we have to settle for passing on a warning to others?

Gresko booked five round trip tickets to Fiji on Fiji Airways through CheapOfly.com — a company they had not previously used. They were skeptical about the company, but an employee assured them that the company was affiliated with Fareportal, and Gresko sent full payment of $4,625 to the company via PayPal.

When the Greskos arrived in Los Angeles, a representative from Fiji Airways informed them that the tickets had been canceled and Fiji Airways had already refunded the tickets. But Gresko received a notification of neither the cancellation nor the refund.

While one airline staff member indicated the family could purchase tickets for the following day, another said she could fix the problem. The Greskos received boarding passes and took their seats on the plane. But before the flight could depart, Gresko and her family were removed from the flight.

Gresko and McBride tried contacting CheapOfly.com for several hours, while still trying to resolve the issue with Fiji Airways. When Gresko finally reached her contact at CheapOfly.com, he assured her that it was simply a “strange glitch” and promised that they would be rebooked on a flight the following day — in business class.

During their attempts to contact CheapOfly.com, the sisters noticed that although there are three different phone numbers for the company, all of them seemed to contact the same person. They eventually concluded that CheapOfly.com was a one-man operation.

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When Gresko contacted Fiji Airways again to see if CheapOfly.com had made the promised arrangements for her family to fly business class the following day, she not only learned that the arrangements had not been made, but also that the original tickets were canceled because they had been purchased with a fraudulent credit card. Gresko and her family had two choices: pay for another set of tickets or go home. They chose the former.

Gresko filed a complaint with PayPal, and McBride contacted us for help.


This is where I normally say something like, “she could have reached out to the company contacts we list on our site,” but we didn’t have contact information for CheapOfly.com. If you’re thinking, “but you do have contacts for Fareportal,” you would be right, but that wouldn’t have been any help either.

Our advocates reached out to Fareportal to confirm if CheapOfly.com is an affiliate — after several days we learned that the companies are not affiliated in any way. We also contacted the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), since the organization’s logo was on the CheapOfly.com page. We learned the company is also not a member of ASTA and would be receiving an “unauthorized use of registered trademark” letter. It would also be placed on ASTA’s logo violator page.

Several other sites also came up in our search for information on CheapOfly.com: unitedtours.us and shockingfares.com, both of which are owned by Fly Buzz Travel Solutions in New Delhi, India. A California address is listed on one site, but it seems to be only a mail drop, not a physical office. I find it interesting that the chosen name of the company in question in the Gresko’s case is very close to the name of legitimate Fareportal affiliate CheapOair. I’m certain that was purposely done to confuse people.

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Our advocates contacted the company on behalf of Gresko and her family.

We never heard back from any of the companies, but McBride says the same man contacted her a few days after our inquiry. They still haven’t received any refunds, and since the tickets were paid about six months in advance a dispute may not be possible. It isn’t too late, however, to file a complaint with the California attorney general’s office, which Gresko plans to do. She is also exploring her options for suing the company.

I’m sorry we couldn’t help the Greskos get their money back. But let this experience serve as a warning to other consumers: If you are considering doing business with a company you’ve never before used, don’t take the representative’s word on the stability or reliability of the company. Do your due diligence: Google it, look it up on review sites, and check with organizations of which it claims to be a member. And always use a method of payment that has protection in case you become a fraud victim.

In the end, if you think something seems sketchy — it probably is.



  • Kerr

    Giving a company you’ve NEVER heard of thousands of dollars? Why?

  • MarkKelling

    This is a situation where a credit card dispute is definitely called for, Yes, six months is past the normal dispute window, but most banks will allow it for a situation like this where the service was paid for and the date the service was to be provided is in the future. (This is also one of the reasons why I never buy things like plane tickets that far in advance, but that’s just me.)

  • Mark

    I agree 110% here. I bought tickets for a concert on a Mastercard a while back. Tickets were bought 8 months in advance, and the concert never happened because the promoter went bankrupt. My credit card company refunded the money “even though it was more than the usual six month window” because it was a future service paid for in advance.

    It took a bit longer for them to process (the transaction data that their team had access to only went back 180 days – they had to loop in another team to help), but the refund took only a week or so to process.

    Incidentally, in my case it was also for a payment made via Paypal. This was still not an issue.

  • AJPeabody

    Of course the cheap name was designed to defraud. The TV ads for CheapOair all say “Cheapo,” without “air.” And, if a company you never heard of sounds like one you did, run away!

  • LeeAnneClark

    This appears to be one of those “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” things. I’m assuming she bought from this scammy “company” because the prices were significantly lower than more established sources. But that right there is a red flag: these days there just aren’t that many situations in which you can buy plane tickets for that much less than what you can get them for directly through the airline. Unless you are buying a full tour package, in which case your travel agent is able to bundle and/or use consolidators, prices for individual plane tickets are just not going to vary much. Consequently, there’s just no real reason to buy tickets from these fly-by-night cheapo companies.

    If you see pricing for individual flights that are hugely less than direct from the airline – something is just not right.

  • Alan Gore

    The only travel agent worse than an online one is an online agent you never heard of.

  • mbods2002

    I wonder how PayPal plays into this. Do they have any liability? She must have used her credit card going through PayPal, can she dispute that payment with her credit card company? Here’s what they advertise: “Sending money online through PayPal is safer than carrying cash or exposing your financial information. Every eligible transaction is protected by sophisticated encryption and 24 hour fraud monitoring”

  • sirwired

    I bought tickets on a cruise line that went bankrupt, and that was the shortest call to credit card customer service ever. I think I was off the phone in five minutes, and the refund (for a charge six months old) hit my account about thirty seconds later. Didn’t even have to mail or fax anything.

    I was pleasantly surprised; the law didn’t require them to do this, and there was approx. a 0% chance they’d ever recover a dime from this particular line in BK. (They never officially went BK, they simply disappeared.)

  • C Schwartz

    I hope she used a credit card with paypal, some people may have the funds taken out of their bank account — ie checking. Paypal may have encryption to stop hackers from getting financial info but that would not help in a case where someone willingly sends money to a business that turns out to be a scam/

  • mbods2002

    Hmmm, yes, I see that. What a shame, hope it works out for her.

  • C Schwartz

    I would encourage all travelers booking their own trips to look at the websites — it is easy to put one up — but here is the about us on Cheapofly

    “CheapOfly is the starting point for travel memories to flourish. Just
    like a dream catcher, We
    capture all the positive thoughts and use them
    to create lasting stories. As an icon, the
    CheapOfly identity represents
    the positive aspiration of capturing great memories and bringing
    them
    to life in the form of the great value we offer consumer.”

    Odd phrasing and capitalization — look at the capital W in We in the middle of a sentence, This looks amateur and awkward. And never send money from a bank account to some random business that is found on the internet.

  • C Schwartz

    I really hope the family can get some help from paypal — I do not know if they have a way to claw back the money paid so long ago — the scammers may have shut down the bank account linked to their paypal.

  • Bill___A

    I see a lot of red flags here, and it is unfortunate that they missed them. I hope they can recoup some or all of their losses, and I also hope the publishing of this episode serves as a warning to all of these inexperienced do it yourself travel agents that there are pitfalls to watch out for.

  • Rebecca

    I found this too. They also appear to run a site called “TravelMug” that has similar randomly strange wording.

    I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear both of these are based in a suburb of New Dehli.

  • PsyGuy

    All n ice ideas, and I would recommend them, but two huge red flags first. First, any company that takes paypal only and not bank cards is essentially asking you to wire them money. PaPal sounds like it provides better protections but the protections it provides are worse than those for bank cards, and ANYBODY can set up a Paypal account to receive payments.
    Second, very little of this would have helped, “boiler room” scam sites pop in and out of existence on a continual basis. As soon as the reviews and and the scams catch up to the business (if you can call it that) they just change some code on their web page and “poof” new business. This is especially easy for businesses that are nothing but virtual storefronts and the only changes consists of new code, and a new domain name.
    Third, NEVER believe what employees tell you about the validity of their business, scammers lie, and they have no problems telling you what you want to hear. This would have had a much happier ending if the LW had contacted the affiliated companies before sending their money.

  • PsyGuy

    I think the best avenue will be filing a dispute with their bank card, since the 60 day limit on purchase protection and fraud starts from discovering the fraud. The next best avenue is going after Pay Pal. Contact the Ag all you want, but India is right below Russia in terms of a haven for scammers. No state AG is going to get anywhere with an action involving a boiler room shop in India.

  • PsyGuy

    These are actually pretty common introduction messages in Asia.

  • PsyGuy

    No, the worst travel agent is your cousins, girlfriends, coworker friend “Bob” who can get you a great deal on anything.

  • PsyGuy

    Except it doesn’t even look “good”.

  • PsyGuy

    reminds me of the movie “Boiler Room” with Vin Diesel, where the name of the brokerage house they sold the scammy stock from was called “J.T. Marlin” (attempting to sound like JP Morgan).

  • PsyGuy

    Greed, there’s a sucker born every minute, and the conception is thinking you can save a couple bucks.

  • jim6555

    It appears that a credit card was not used in this transaction. The tickets were paid for using PayPal.

  • The Original Joe S

    OTA? You reap what you sow.

  • The Original Joe S

    Totally agree w/u.

  • The Original Joe S

    Welcome to Gunga Gin land!

  • cscasi

    How can she do a credit card dispute if she paid via PayPal? It was the CheapOfly.com “guy” who used a fraudulent credit card to pay for the Greskos’ tickets on Fiji Air and that is why Fiji Air told the Geskos their original tickets were cancelled. It does not say that it was the Geskos were the ones who used a fraudulent credit card to pay PayPal and PayPal paid the CheapOfly.com guy, didn’t it?
    It is a real mess, but it looks like they are out the money unless they can catch up with this crook. Of course there is an address in Beverly Hills, CA on its website, but I wonder if it is just one of those addresses that just has mailboxes disguised as suites.
    Got to check out these companies before using them.
    I feel that PayPal will probably not have any resolution as far as getitng their money back, but perhaps they can close CheapOfly.com’s account with them so they cannot bilk more customers who use PayPal.

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    I might use CheapOair to fly from Minneapolis to St. Paul, but not any farther.

  • MarkKelling

    You can use your own credit card to pay for something through Pay Pal if you don’t keep an active balance there. I have done it multiple times for small items I have bought. If she paid this way, she can dispute that payment.

  • MarkKelling

    The payment was through Pay Pal. These payments can be funded from the purchaser’s end by using a credit card. The article does not specify how the funds were paid to Pay Pal.

  • gpx21dlr

    How about from San Francisco to Oakland?

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    Almost as safe but the Mpls/St.Paul are a litttle closer :-)

  • 42NYC

    Isn’t paypal supposed to offer some sort of protection?

    That said, its a company you’ve never heard of; they’re asking you to pay in a non-traditional format and are presumably offering you a deal far better than what you’d find from other OTA’s. All of these should have been red flags. It’s a shame she learned an expensive lesson but hopefully it helps prevent others from making the same mistake.

  • 42NYC

    and less water to cross :)

  • Annie M

    If they live in California they can file a complaint since anyone selling travel there needs to be licensed as a Seller of Travel. She can file a complaint with the State that this company is doing business with a California address yet is not listed as a seller of travel.

    https://oag.ca.gov/travel

  • joycexyz

    There are a lot of people out there who think with their wallets—often with predictable results.

  • joycexyz

    But this wasn’t even a legit OTA! Makes Expedia, et al, sound like saints!

  • Chris Johnson

    Who the hell pays for airline tickets using Paypal? The cheapest airline ticket I ever bought was $ 60, I think, during Southwest’s 30th anniversary sale when they offered $ 30 fares each way, and I still used a credit card. The mere fact they were required to pay by Paypal makes the company shady.

  • Chris Johnson

    They might be good for the LaGuardia to Kennedy route too.

  • Chris Johnson

    Via Paypal, no less.

  • cscasi

    I agree, you can. Did they? Where does it say that they did or did not? If they did and the card was fraudulent, then I can see that’s their loss and rightfully so. If they did that ther eis no way that they can go to the bank and dispute the payment, can they? If the CheapOfly.com people used their credit card and it was fraudulent, then it is not on the Greskos.
    Do we in fact know or are we left guessing who it was that used the fraudulent card?

  • MarkKelling

    In the article:
    1. The OP stated the airline informed her the payment to them was on a credit card that turned out to be fraudulent.
    2. The OP stated the payment was done through Pay Pal to CheapOfly.

    Beyond that, anything would be assumptions since the details are not provided. From what is provided, it would appear that CheapOfly was the one using the credit card found to be fraudulent. I made an assumption based on how I have used Pay Pal that the OP paid using credit card mainly due the the large amount of the transaction. But you are correct it is not specifically stated in the article what route the funds took to get to Pay Pal from the OP.

    So i would amend my original comment about doing a charge back dispute to state IF the payment to Pay Pal was done using a credit card a charge back dispute would be the thing to do.

  • jsn55

    This story is almost incomprehensible. How could anyone send $4600 to an entity they never heard of, didn’t check on, and has a name like Cheapo? What a very sad story.

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