West Michigan couple scammed out of travel voucher

When one West Michigan couple lost their travel voucher to a scammer, they needed help—so they called 13 ON YOUR SIDE.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Airlines are seeing travel increase, and many people are looking to use vouchers they received after cancelling flights during the pandemic.

But with that surge comes a rise in scammers posing as travel companies to steal voucher information — and pocket the money.

It’s something that caused a lot of confusion and frustration for one local couple. We spoke with them in this week’s Money Guide.

“Debbie bought a ticket to visit her friend in Wales back in 2020 and before she could use it the whole COVID nightmare came down on us, so the flight was cancelled,” explained Don Negus, who lives in Remus.

United issued Debbie an electronic travel certificate, or voucher, by email for $1095.05 that she could use for travel by August of 2023. But when she went to redeem it, the turbulence started.

“They couldn’t find her, they said too bad so sad. I spent another day on the phone with them, I forwarded them the email…they said unfortunately she has already used her refund. I was like WHAT?” said Don.

Security teams for the major airlines are working with Google to stop what likely happened.

“When you went to redeem your voucher what did you do?” asked 13 ON YOUR SIDE’s Meredith TerHaar.

“You called United reservations,” said Don to Debbie. 

“How did you find that number?” asked Meredith. 

“Online, through Travelocity,” said Debbie. 

“No, you just Googled,” said Don.

Fraudulent travel companies are competing for Google Ad words so when you Google, for example United customer service, and click on a top link, you might end up with the phone number of a scammer, instead of your airline.

Thinking they were speaking with an actual United Airlines employee, it’s likely they shared key information over the phone, giving scammers everything they would need to steal the voucher.

“Yeah, I did. I gave them your ticket number, your confirmation, your reservation number. Yeah, we gave them all the information,” said Don.

Shortly after 13 ON YOUR SIDE reached out to United to ask about the case, they called Don.

“They were very sweet, very apologetic just said that we’d both been defrauded and they were going to send us a refund via email.”

United says the best way for customers to find United phone number is directly on United.com

The couple is happy with the outcome.

“I’d heard of 13 ON YOUR SIDE and we needed somebody on our side so we called you and here we are. Thanks to you we now have a full refund again…tada!”

Again, Googling to look for a phone number is no longer a safe practice. Go directly to your airline’s website to make sure you are dealing with the actual company.

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