Romsey’s single mom scammed by fake travel agency
A single mum has been swindled over £ 1,500 after buying plane tickets online for a surprise Christmas visit to see her grandchild.
Chantelle Barratt, of Viney Avenue, Romsey, lost £ 1,655 when she bought tickets for herself and her seven-year-old daughter to travel to her hometown of Ndola in Zambia, Africa.
Ms. Barratt had come across a website, www.ethiopianairlines.flightse.co.uk, and after entering her details, she was contacted by a man named Jason Kim who claimed to be the agent for a third-party agency called FlightSE, as stated in the URL.
The 45-year-old mum, who works as a caregiver in Romsey, was trying to visit her two oldest daughters in Africa, one of whom gave birth to a baby girl in April 2020 whom she has yet to meet . After seeing flights advertised at 40% off, she hoped for her chance.
Ms Barratt said: “Around mid-October I started looking for flights for December. Ethiopian Airlines in particular, as it is one of the few airlines to serve Ndola, where I was supposed to land.
“I searched a multitude of websites for options and prices. Around October 28th, I went to what I thought was the official Ethiopian Airlines website and put in my contact details. I then got a phone call from Jason stating that he was working as an agent and would be able to help me with my tickets.
Ms Barratt gave Jason her contact details to make the reservation through the official airline at www.ethiopianairlines.com and when completed he emailed Ms Barratt an itinerary. She then contacted the reservations department of the real airline and spoke with an operator who confirmed that the reservation had been made.
Happy at this point, she asked Jason if she could make the payment online. Jason informed her that the online payment link for FlightSE was down and could she do a wire transfer instead.
The website announced that FlightSE is protected by ATOL with 100% financial protection on all bookings. Ms Barratt thought all bases were covered and transferred the money.
She continued: “I didn’t think about it and asked for their bank details. There was really nothing to make me think otherwise. I transferred them £ 1,655. They said that ‘They had received my money and they would issue the tickets; that’s where the problems started.
“They wouldn’t answer my calls and if they did, they would put me on hold and then cut me off. I got worried and called the airline back.
On the second call to reservations, Ms. Barratt spoke to the sales manager who confirmed that the reservation had been made and then canceled. After checking the details, he was told the booking was made from Pakistan and not the UK. An email from a member of the reservations department said they would try to locate the agent in Pakistan, but if it was booked through a third party agent it would be difficult.
Ms Barratt immediately contacted her bank and requested a reverse transfer, but so far her money has not been refunded. Jason had given account details indicating that the account was with PayRNet (a digital currency institution) but Barclays for international payments. When the bank looked up the sort code, the account was not held at Barclays. Additionally, the account was created with an address for residential property in Essex, but the airline confirmed that the booking was made outside the UK.
Ms Barratt also contacted the British Civil Airlines Authority and the police and awaits further information.
The advertiser has contacted Ethiopian Airlines and PayRNet for comment, but they have not responded.