27 October 2009

Scammed Southwest customer goes after con artist with nine iron

Like most Southwest Airlines passengers, Ted LeClair likes nothing more than a bargain. Which is exactly what he thought he’d found when a con artist offered $1,200 worth of flight coupons at a deep discount on Craigslist.

Think you know what comes next? No you don’t.

LeClair picks up the story.

I met him, booked the flight online, verified the credit card with his ID, then called the airline to confirm that the flight was purchased and non-refundable. Southwest confirmed everything.
Turns out the tickets weren’t for LeClair, but his seven-year-old daughter. He continues.
The next day my mother called me from the airport telling me that Southwest said the ticket was no longer paid for and needed to be purchased with cash.
I spoke to customer service and they said that their system kicked out the purchase in the middle of the night due to “credit card inconsistencies.”
I called the man I bought the credits from and after not answering five times, his phone started going right to voice mail. I then had to tell my mother to head home. I could hear my daughter crying in the background.
I was fuming.
Southwest wasn’t completely unsympathetic to his plight. It offered a $20 discount off of a $385 airline ticket. “A ticket,” he adds, “I could not afford.”
A representative told him Southwest’s system performs a second set of checks and balances after tickets are purchased. A “credit card inconsistency” is not detectable immediately after the booking.
There’s something else you need to know about LeClair. He is, as he describes it, “not the type to take things like this lying down.”
I saw the guy’s ad that ripped me off still on Craigslist, so I set up an e-mail account under a female’s name to buy another ticket. A girlfriend of mine then called and confirmed the purchase of the ticket and arranged a meeting at a health food grocery store for him to pick up the cash.
So, I was at least going to be able to get this con artist in front of me.
I called the police to tell them what had happened and get some assistance in catching this guy in the act.
But the police were less than helpful. After being transferred to several departments, he was promised a call back “within five days.” LeClair said he could deliver a criminal to them red-handed, but he was told that wasn’t proper procedure. When he protested, he was told, “If you think being a cop is so easy, go to the Police Academy.”
So he took matters into his own hands.
I showed up at the health food store with my nine iron.
I think when the perp first saw me, he thought I just happened to run into him. I told him I wanted my money back and he responded by wanting to book me another flight.
At this point, I knew after reading your previous blog on this, that even if my daughter was able to get on a plane, I could get charged later.
I kept asking for my money and he did what con artists do — he tried to act like I was trying to con him.
So I attacked him. I had him in a headlock when we were broken up. He called the police, I called the police, and the store manager called the police.
Although the police initially subdued LeClair, the tables quickly turned on the con man.
Once I told the story, I could see them becoming empathetic to my plight. Then we called the airline from my phone and we all listened on speaker phone about what happened with my purchase.
The police then saw that the guy had committed a crime and arrested him.
Then they asked me a very amusing question: “Why didn’t you call us?”
LeClair wonders how Southwest can continue to allow fraudulent purchases to be made through its reservations system. I’ve given the airline ample opportunity to address this issue in previous blog posts. It appears that the carrier is content to leave things as they are while stepping up the warnings of these questionable vouchers.
Seems to me Southwest ought to do something before someone gets hurt.

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