Airline scam changed man, son's life

Discussion in 'Blogstand' started by sobore, Jun 28, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=8217975

    A Bay Area man who used Craigslist to buy airline tickets wound up flying into what he says was a big trap and it changed his son's future.
    A lot of high school seniors are visiting prospective colleges right now. That was the plan for Cyrus Esteban and his son Dominic as well, until one Craigslist ad changed everything.

    Esteban was thrilled to be accepted to St. John's University in New York, but he'd never been there, so his father Cyrus planned a two-day visit, then searched for airfares he could afford.
    "Three days before we were leaving, I still couldn't find something," said Esteban, "so I jumped on Craigslist."

    One ad, titled "Airline Tickets for Low Prices," caught his eye. Esteban emailed the seller, and he heard back right away.
    The seller said he was a man named Duane Pabst, who claimed he could use his frequent flyer miles to purchase two round-trip tickets on American Airlines to New York for $130 each. Pabst then said he'd sell the tickets to Esteban and his father for $280 a piece.

    "It was good," Esteban said. "It was actually a better flight. It was a non-stop flight. It was cheaper."
    The seller booked the reservations, and Esteban received an itinerary directly from American Airlines.
    The tickets had to be purchased by midnight, so Esteban went to a Bank of America branch and deposited cash directly into Pabst's bank account.
    "I emailed him and I said, 'okay, the money's there, go ahead and confirm the ticket,'" Esteban said.
    "We were up at midnight, waiting for it, and midnight rolled by and nothing happened," said Dominic Esteban.

    Cyrus Esteban called the airliner. No one had paid for the tickets.
    "I told my son, you know what? We gotta have faith that no one would do that to me," Esteban said. "And he did."
    Esteban told police he'd just been swindled.
    Pabst allegedly reserved the seats, which generated the itinerary

    However, tickets are not officially purchased until someone pays for them.
    Esteban told police Pabst never purchased the tickets, he just took the money.
    And it was more than just the money. The incident changed their lives. Dominic never received the opportunity to visit St. John's and a commitment was due, so he decided not to go to school there after all.

    "I really wouldn't want to go all the way across the country to a place I've never been, to a school I've never seen," Dominic Esteban said.
    Cyrus Esteban became obsessed with bringing down the man he says stole his money. Esteban launched DuanePabst.com, exposing his name and driver's license, and accusing him of an ongoing scam.
    While Esteban was constructing the site, he found other victims and a website warning about Pabst.

    Esteban says he's emailed Pabst repeatedly, pleading with him to return the money. Esteban has also filed complaints with American Airlines and Bank of America. Last, Esteban called 7 On Your Side.
    ABC7 asked Bank of America why they would continue to serve Pabst with an open account despite prior complains about him. In a statement the bank said they "do not typically close accounts based solely on an accusation by a third party. We cooperate fully with law enforcement."

    American Airlines told ABC7 that they "first learned of Mr. Pabst's scam late last year," when other passengers called us thinking they had tickets too.
    However, American Airlines said it shut down Pabst's frequent flyer account in December, and Bank of America shut down Pabst's bank account after Esteban's complaint.
    Today, Dominic Esteban is headed to city college, and then to the University of San Francisco. Cyrus Esteban is still pursing the man he says swindled him.
    "That was crazy pain," Esteban said. "I didn't stop everybody in the world, but I did stop him."

    The San Francisco Police say they are investigating this case as a financial crime. Police and Cyrus Esteban say low cost online deals should raise a red flag. Always make sure you have the item in hand before you pay for it, and a reservation is not a ticket.
     
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  2. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    If it sounds too good to be true...
     
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  3. Grace
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    Grace Silver Member

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    So he couldn't afford a campus visit, but he could afford a private university? Must have been receiving a nice financial aid package.
     
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  4. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    Too bad he didn't spend a little effort on the ticket, but now spends time running this lowlife down.
     
  5. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    I think the inability of financial aid recipients to afford visits to the campus is a bit unfair. The merit of financial aid in the first place is an entirely different conversation, but if a school is going to offer a generous package, you'd think they would make an effort to show the kid around.

    However, the big mistake appears to be that the dad planned an entire trip and only THEN tried to book the airline tickets. He should have probably gone the other way around. I wish these "On your side" local news segments would spend more time telling people how to avoid these mistakes and less time complaining about the scam artists.
     
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  6. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    While I'm never happy to see things like this happen, other than his uncle from Nigeria emailing him with a new found inheritance, I'm not sure this guy could have fallen for a more obvious trick.

    1) Did they call St Johns and explain their situation? Surely special accommodations could have been made by the University once they produced a police report. (Delayed decision date, comped airfare, etc.)
    2) Were they not planning on having their child come home to SFO at all during the year? If so, perhaps use the funds anticipated for that trip for the pre-acceptance visit?

    Life, or at least success, is about figuring out creative solutions to everyday problems. This kid, or at least the parent, get an F. The lesson the parent is teaching is how to be vindictive. While based on the facts presented it appears punishment is due to the scam artist, a much better article would have been had the parent worked with the kid to overcome the adversity dealt to them (or walked straight into by them) and creatively found a way to make this trip happen.
     
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  7. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    From the airline's perspective, buying/selling award tickets is a scam, too.
     
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