Scammers have been fraudulently using the company name Expedia Inc. to trick consumers out of thousands of dollars.
Earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) started receiving several complaints from consumers about the scam, with some reporting losses of as much as $4,800.
The scam begins with an internet search for the customer service numbers for Expedia. However, the numbers listed in the search results connect consumers with an individual who is impersonating an Expedia customer service representative.
Unaware of the scam, some consumers asked the imposter to confirm or change their existing reservations that were previously made through the Expedia travel site. The impostor informs the consumer that the company’s site is experiencing problems and that they will need to purchase gift cards in order to receive their refund or make changes to their bookings. Others were duped with fake promotions while trying to create travel plans.
A victim told BBB the scammer said she could offer a cheaper price for his trip by booking over the phone when compared to the price on Expedia’s website.
This was because of a new partnership promotion with Google, which was available for a limited time. After over 40 minutes on the phone with the scammer, he was instructed to purchase $500 worth of Google Play gift cards to pay for his travel arrangements. The scammer tried to get more money by telling the victim that 2 of the 5 card numbers he provided were invalid, and so he would need to purchase an additional $200 worth of Google Play cards.
The scammer even offered to conveniently charge the $200 to his Mastercard if he did not want to purchase more cards. “I got very nervous and said I would call her back. She was very persistent that she could not hold the rate much longer. When I called back, that’s when I knew I was scammed, as it was not a legitimate Expedia phone number”.
Karla Davis, manager for community and public relations at BBB serving mainland B.C. explained that scammers will always try to impersonate brands and businesses that consumers recognize and trust.
"They are riding on the credibility and reputations of these companies, with the hope that consumers will not be paying enough attention to notice the scam,” she said, adding that “while brand impersonation is a big problem, the growing number of reports about scams involving gift cards is another major concern. Consumers need to remember that gift cards should only be used as gifts, not for payments or anything else.”
— Chris Campbell, Burnaby Now