The phone scam: Make it stop!

Raise your hand if you’ve had a call from an automated voice telling you that you’ve won something from WestJet. Yeah, me too. By now you hopefully realize this is a scam, but what you might not know is that we hate these calls as much as you do. Probably more, in fact, because we hate seeing our guests harassed this way and we desperately wish that we could just make the calls stop already. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, our earlier blog post on the telephone scam will explain it.)

Our legal, security, government relations and communications teams are all involved in figuring out how to make these stop. This is a regular conversation around the office and we’re constantly trying to come up with new ideas on how to address this. The most difficult piece in all of this is actually identifying the company behind the phone calls. Their website (luxurygetawaygroup.com) has an address that appears to be in an alley in Cancun while their “About us” section of their website doesn’t really say anything about who they are. The fraudsters may also go by the name Caribbean Sun Trips (caribbeansuntrips.com), Caribbean Sun Group (caribbeansungroup.net) or Global Group Travel (no website available).

What we’ve tried
What have we tried, you ask? Here’s a sample of the many angles we’ve attacked this from:

  • We’ve worked with the Mexican authorities (which is where the scams originate) and other government agencies in Mexico.
  • We’ve reported it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre numerous times.
  • We’ve talked to the company that hosts their websites about getting those taken down.
  • Before they started spoofing phone numbers (so it looks like the call is coming from a local number) we called them back and tried to trace the numbers.
  • We’ve answered calls and have spoken at length to the people on the other end of the line to try to understand their approach so we can attempt to stop them.
  • We’ve answered calls and have kept them on the line as long as possible. (At least that way one of them is kept busy and can’t call you.) I think Darren and Greg from our social media team have the longest records so far – those guys sure know how to keep a call going by asking random questions!

Just make it stop!
We’ve heard this request from many of you and we wish we could. We really, really do. My boss (VP of Communications and Community Relations Richard Bartrem) doesn’t get rattled by much but he’s losing his mind over this one, and I’ve definitely heard some major frustration from fellow WestJetters who try to help guests being harassed by these calls and wish they could say more than just, “We know, we’re sorry and we’re doing all we can.” It’s just not as easy to stop anonymous scammers in Mexico as you might think, but by all means if you have an idea please let us know.

How you can help
While we keep working in the background, here’s what you can do to help stop these calls. (And please help! We’re all in this together.)

  • Report the calls through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website or by calling 1-888-495-8501.
  • If you’re registered on the National Do Not Call List you should also report these phone calls to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission online or by calling 1-866-580-DNCL (3625). Information such as the date and time of the call, the telemarketer’s name and telephone number, the telephone number that received the call and any additional information that would identify the caller or on whose behalf the call is being made, such as a website, will help the CRTC’s enforcement officers.
  • If you get a call like this, tell them you know it’s a scam and hang up.
  • Whatever you do, don’t give them any of your personal information, especially a credit card number.
  • Tell your friends that this is a scam. We’re still hearing from people who don’t realize this isn’t legit and we want everyone to know it’s a scam. WestJet does not use telemarketers. We don’t make telemarketing phone calls – if you hear from us you will talk to an actual person who is calling to help you with an existing booking or because you’ve asked for a call back.
  • Share this blog post on social media. Here, we’ll make it easy for you. Just cut and paste this onto Facebook or Twitter:

The flight credit call we’re all getting is a scam. WestJet is asking for help stopping it:

Whatever you do, please trust us that we’re doing everything we possibly can to get these calls to stop.

Edit (12 March, 2015): We issued another news release on the phone scam today.