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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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UPD investigates airline scam

The University Police Department is in the initial stages of investigating an airline ticket scam that resulted in 16 Indian international students losing a total of $17,000.
After being notified of the scam on Sept. 25, UPD reached out to the local FBI field office and branch of the Better Business Bureau, said public information officer Lt. Allan Baron.
Bill McGuise, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Brazos Valley, said students looked to purchase airfare to return home during winter break and found the ad for the fake airline tickets to India on www.sulekha.com, a site one student referred to as an “Indian version of craigslist.” McGuise said the tickets were posted by a fake company called Jasmine Travel for $700 less than any other provider.
“It could happen to anybody, and basically what happened here is that one person thought they had a good deal and spread the word to their friends so they could get in on the action,” McGuise said.
McGuise said the students in question wired money to the fake company, meaning they had none of the safeguards awarded by credit card protection.
“That’s what scam artists do,” McGuise said. “They never give you a true identity, and they don’t want you to find them. They want you to wire transfer money or send them a Green Dot money card number that on the back of it. They just want to take money from people.
They don’t want to deliver any product, and they are very hard to locate.”
McGuise said the fake company listed an address in Los Alamitos, Calif., at the site of an actual travel company and an address in Forest Hills, New York, at a Citi Bank location.
“This is what scam artists do, they use actual addresses, but not actually addresses that are theirs,” McGuire said. “Turns out these guys are located in, or at least their domain is in, Jakarta, Indonesia. That’s where they really are.”
After conversing with representatives of Better Business Bureau branches that monitor business practices in Los Alamitos and Forest Hills, McGuise said he found no information on the companies, which constituted a red flag. From a simple Internet search and the help of a website devoted to debunking scams, McGuise said he found the business has two servers in Georgia.
Baron said the possible connections to multiple states and countries make this case complex.
Based on his experience with fraudulent companies, McGuise said the FBI will probably be able to have Jasmine Travel servers shut down.
To avoid similar situations, Baron said students should be aware that offers that appear too good to be true probably are.
“When considering online financial transaction, individuals should first check to determine if other consumers have expressed concern or have had positive or negative experiences with the business being considered,” Baron said.
Baron and McGuise said consulting a local Better Business Bureau is also a good avenue to make sure a business is reputable.
“I’m going to put it out to every BBB office in the country and Canada, because we’ve all got international students with colleges in our regions,” McGuise said.

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