BBB gives warning about airline scam

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Scammers have come up with another way to take people’s hard-earned money as people cancel travel plans and flights.

Shirley Crenshaw planned on visiting family in South Carolina before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Then things changed and she decided to cancel her reservations and stay home.

But it wasn’t that simple.

Crenshaw used an online travel site to book her ticket with a major airline carrier.

When she went to cancel, she searched online for that airline's number and called the first one she saw.

From the moment Crenshaw connected with the operator, she knew something wasn't right.

“He said ‘because your ticket cost less than 500 dollars we are not able to refund your ticket,’” Crenshaw said.

Related: BBB: Scammers targeting small business owners seeking financial assistance during pandemic

And she believed him.

"I just felt it was a legitimate call,” Crenshaw said. “And he said what we can do is give you a refund back on gift cards."

So Crenshaw bought a $200 gift card at a grocery store. She was then told to provide the code on the back of the card.

“Then he wanted me to go back in and buy $200 more and that’s when I thought you know, I questioned him from the beginning,” Crenshaw said.

After that, Crenshaw hung up.

FOX13 took Shirley's concerns to Nancy Crawford at the Better Business Bureau.

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Crawford said she's seen this before.

“The scammer tried to trick her into paying $400 in pre-paid gift cards by insisting that the airline was running a special promotion,” Crawford said.

Here's how the scam works.

Crawford said scammers buying listings for customer support and put fake numbers online.

“Google and the other apps don’t know if that’s a fake number or a real number,” Crawford said. “They just returned a result because it had the words matching.”

Crawford added its best to use the contact info on the business’ website or reach out to the BBB for added assurance.

“Don’t talk to anybody and be careful when you look up something,” Crenshaw said.

A lesson Crenshaw learned and wants others to know moving forward.