KINGSTON, Jamaica – Airlines flying out of Jamaica have detected a number of cases of passengers tendering tickets fraudulently purchased online with unsuspecting cardholders’ credit.
National carrier Air Jamaica seems to have been the greatest casualty, while a United States-based carrier is fighting hard to recover losses from what has become a thriving illicit business, whose main subscribers are said to be Jamaicantraders travelling to Los Angeles, London and Curaçao.
The masterminds of the scheme are said to obtain credit card numbers of U.S. citizens, which are then used to finance e-ticket purchases.
They then sell the tickets to legitimate travellers at a cheaper price than advertised.
Air travel prices are dynamic, changing according to seasons and bookings and travel gateway, but seats on flights originating from Kingston range from about US$400 to above US$2,000 for London.
Air Jamaica was unwilling to disclose the size of the fraud it has detected, however senior vice president and chief revenue officer Tom Hill said losses in percentage terms while “low” could amount to a fairly substantial sum.
A highly placed source at a U.S.-based carrier, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed Wednesday Business that most of the people caught with the illicit tickets were Informal Commercial Operators travelling to Los Angeles, California, and that some, because of their nervous actions, appeared to know they were participants in a scam.
“TheICIs need to be careful, especially with the scanning of photographs and U.S. border and fingerprinting process.”
The U.S. carrier has had problems with about 10 tickets, but five of the persons caught have paid up, the source said.
“I am of the impression that either someone is taking these credit card numbers and acting like a travel agent or it’s a ring that is operating in the region.”
Air Jamaica first detected the problem on the Curaçao route, where ticket prices can run above US$500 but since then the tickets have been tendered on other travel routes, the airline said.
Hill said, however, that the airline was pushing for purchasers of the illicit tickets to be prosecuted.
Internally, the carrier is taking another look at its detection systems.
“And we will put in place new measures to limit any loss to the national carrier,” Hill said.