AN immigrant who has been in Canada for just two months and planned to return to India in December to wrap up some unfinished business, fell prey to a scam when he responded to an advertisement in an ethnic newspaper offering the “cheapest air tickets.”
The victim, who did not want his name published because he felt embarrassed, told this writer that he ended up shelling out $1,035 for a return ticket for a non-stop Air Canada flight in December from Vancouver to New Delhi – only to find that it had been cancelled just the day after his credit card payment went through.
However, the tenacious immigrant tracked down one of the people allegedly behind the scam to Delhi, even unearthing her bank account, home address and phone number. He is hell-bent on bringing her to justice through the Indian police.
On September 13, when the victim called the number 778-720-0121 given in the ad by MyInstantHotel.Com with the address 201 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, the man on the line offered a return ticket for only $1,035 – $24 less than the advertised amount – apparently to make it even more attractive.
The man identified himself as Rohan Verma, manager of reservations and operations for the company. Verma offered the victim an Air Canada return ticket for December 13. He was to fly back to Vancouver on January 3. The man then asked the victim for his credit card details as a guarantee. However, the victim refused to provide this information and told him that he would make the payment once Verma booked his ticket.
On September 14, Verma sent the victim a demo ticket and asked for his credit card information. But the victim refused to give him any information.
On September 16, Verma provided his bank details (a TD bank account with transit number 1180) and told the victim that only after he had deposited the money and sent him the receipt, he would issue the ticket. But the victim told him that unless he received the ticket, he would not deposit the money.
On September 17, Verma sent him an e-ticket and told him to check it on the Air Canada website and then deposit the payment and send him the receipt. The victim checked the website and found it was a valid ticket. He also called the Air Canada call centre.
On September 18, he texted the victim to deposit the money in the owner’s bank account. He said that Paramjit Kaur was the owner of the travel agency and their head office was based in India. He provided her bank details.
The victim deposited Indian Rs. 53,500 through his Indian bank account and Verma texted the victim that the payment had been received.
On September 19, when the victim checked the Air Canada website, he was shocked to see that the ticket was “gone.” “It was showing that the payment didn’t go through and that’s why they had cancelled my booking,” he added.
When the victim contacted Verma, the latter told him not to worry about that as he would get it fixed. He said he missed the payment deadline and he would get the ticket reissued and sent to him.
On September 20, Verma informed the victim that his ticket had been reissued and it had been sent to him.
The victim said he was “very satisfied” with the outcome and he actually referred Verma to one of his relatives.
However, on September 22 (last Sunday), when just out of curiosity he decided to take another look at the Air Canada website, he found that his ticket had been cancelled again because the payment hadn’t gone through.
On Sunday evening, the victim started calling Verma again and also sent him an email to which he replied that he would contact him the next morning.
The victim said that since Monday morning, he had called him a number of times and sent him a raft of texts and emails, but there had been no response.
The victim then started tracing the alleged scammers through the internet. He said he first found out who Paramjit Kaur is. When he tried to contact the agency, SKH Global Travels Pvt. Ltd. in Delhi, he found that no phone number or email was working.
He then started probing further about Paramjit Kaur because in India you cannot open a fake account nowadays because of very strict rules, he said. He traced her account in Punjab National Bank in Delhi’s West Patel Nagar. Through one of his relatives in India, he traced her address in Mandirwali Gali as well. (He showed the address and her bank account number to this writer).
The victim then sent Verma a stern email and informed him that he had gathered all the details about his operations and threatened to expose him to Delhi Police and others if he didn’t refund his money. He gave him Tuesday’s deadline.
The victim managed to get a hold of Paramjit Kaur in India at 6:57 a.m. on Tuesday (September 24). The moment she realized who the caller was, she disconnected the call, the victim said.
Minutes later, Verma sent him an email at 7:07 a.m., stating “Your reissued ticket will be sent.” The victim noted that the woman must have informed Verma right after she disconnected his call.
The victim said he sent Verma a text just before meeting this writer, but had yet to receive a response.
We will keep you posted about any developments, but the victim wanted to alert others about the scam in the meantime.