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Forums Frequent flyer programs Virgin Flying Club Help needed! Virgin Atlantic suspended my account for fraud without explanations

  • memesweeper 1,268 posts

    Not that I want to stand up for Virgin, but in this case I can see why the fraud alerts would have gone off. A person in Germany, using a Chinese credit card, buying Air France business class tickets from Germany to France and back during one of the busiest times of the year – via a UK airline’s frequent flyer scheme, after they’ve bought most of the points in the first place…?

    I suspect trying to get your Chinese bank to reverse the points purchase may be your best/only solution, @zotikus.

    My thoughts are same. Spending on a CNY card when the country is known for capital controls is a bit risky.

    Frankly, if thats the case, Virgin should get on the phone to points.com and tell them to stop selling points to Chinese card holders. Not rip people off.

    Froggee 947 posts

    So it can be seen why the fraud department’s algorithm kicked in.

    But it does not mean that the transactions are fraudulent.

    Dumb question @zotikus but have you checked that the payment has gone through on your credit card statement and has not been reversed by your Chinese bank or indeed Virgin?

    If you have indeed made payment and the tickets have been issued then I would imagine that you would have a contract and rights to enforce that contract.

    I still think your best course is a polite email explaining why you think they have a problem and explaining that you are just a Chinese person living in Germany booking flights for a special occasion.

    If they still say tough luck then I would hope they would refund your miles purchase and cash payment for the tickets.

    But it does seem very shabby behaviour by Virgin whatever happens now.

    TGLoyalty 574 posts

    “It’s also difficult to prove the flights are for family when the last names can be similar for unrelated people.”

    If the OP has booked a for himself in the name on his VS account and anyone else (friend or family) in a single booking then I don’t see how that points to fraud in any way shape or form

    Froggee 947 posts

    Now to be fair, Chinese citizens are allowed to transfer up to US$50,000 out of China per annum for a number of purposes with travel specifically included. And the OP used a Mastercard which is a US product.

    So to say that this activity is risky is a bit harsh. It’s the OP’s money to spend. Virgin solicited the expense and then went screw you.

    I am perturbed by this as unlike some of the other my accounts have been closed posts, this one stacks up to me and I am 100% rooting for a resolution in favour of @zotikus

    My thoughts are same. Spending on a CNY card when the country is known for capital controls is a bit risky.

    American blogs make it sound easy to enrol and redeem all over the world, but outside US, it’s best to keep things simple.

    Remember reading Alaskan banned some Asian accounts as they bought miles and within a few days booked dozens of flights. It’s also difficult to prove the flights are for family when the last names can be similar for unrelated people.

    zotikus 18 posts

    thanks @Froggee for your suggestions! I will provide some supporting facts/docs to address the possible fraud red flags we found here. I can’t believe nationality could be an issue in this case, sadly. I also bought quite some UA points before, and used it for many flights, for my parents, partner. super smooth! No troubles no frustrations. Shockingly VS could be so much worse. First time to know ‘data subject access request’, I will keep that in mind and check later. Thanks.

    zotikus 18 posts

    @JDB @Mouse thanks for the input. It is a good reminder to be more careful with which card to use. Probably I will use my German cards for UK purchase, it might be safer.

    zotikus 18 posts

    Hey guys, 2 new findings:

    1. as per @Froggee suggested, I went through my credit card statement. I can see my payment of 106EUR and 136USD were successfully booked in my account on 7 Apr, 2 days after issuing the tickets. And this morning I got both payment refund to my account, the transaction date is the same date as I wrote to the execute team. I don’t know if it is their standard procedure when suspending accounts, that they cancel all the flights booked in the account and refund the cash part? Or it is the result of my email?

    2. After realizing nationality/geography could be a big issue, it suddenly came to my mind, that the phone call I made to issue the tickets is by Skype, and it still shows a virtual Chinese phone number. In my profile I left the German number. Do you think it could be an issue too? But nowadays people use more than one number, right? Can it be a red flag for VS?

    Froggee 947 posts

    I don’t know the answer to (1) in terms of their procedure but I imagine that they are compelled to refund cash but not points (as points have no value) when cancelling your account and therefore any booked flights.

    I think (2) would be overthinking it. I have to keep giving them my mobile number which makes me think they don’t have a sophisticated switchboard.

    Simply they will not have liked a fairly new account, with no history of flying Virgin, buying points and using them to redeem for assumedly high value flights with an airline partner.

    The fact that payment came from China will have pushed them from not liking it to considering it fraud based upon how much fraud unfortunately comes out of China.

    This is unfair (and possibly illegal).

    All you can do is plead your case. Others will be better suited how to proceed if they refuse to listen but the priority needs to be trying to get a refund of £1,100 for buying points that you are unable to use because of unilateral actions by Virgin. As for the flights, you did have a contract with the, acting as agent and they have broken this contract.

    Others will be better suited to advise if there is any chance of enforcing this contract. There is also the possibility of the Aviation Dispute Resolution Scheme but again others would be more able to say if this qualifies.

    So there are three angles:
    i) Virgin shutting your account – be open and honest and explain your background and why there is no fraud
    ii) breach of contract in Virgin unilaterally cancelling ticketed flights
    iii) if no luck above, then trying to get refunded the £1,100 you paid for points that Virgin have unreasonably confiscated from you.

    mrcrsearle 99 posts

    I had an issue once with VA & fraud. They took their time with the checks etc but eventually all worked out fine. There is nothing you can do. Once they are finished with their checks you will be fine – if its not fraud. Just sit tight & wait.

    If its not fraud, you got nothing to worry about.

    zotikus 18 posts

    Hey guys, some update here, it didn’t work with the executive team 🙁 they replied after my email:
    ====
    I have liaised with our fraud team to see if there was anything further we could do to assist however, unfortunately we are unable to override the decision made.

    I am truly sorry there isn’t anything further we can do to help and should you have any further questions this would need to be raised with our loyalty fraud team directly.
    ====

    I sent all I can think of, with your guys’ suggestions:
    ====
    I want to attach some documents/information that could be useful for the investigation:

    1. I am the legitimate owner of the credit card paid for the tickets. Please see attachment 1 for the screenshot of my account transaction details. I have been living in Germany for 3 years (attachment 2: my residence permit) and I am holding a Chinese passport(attachment 3: my passport), so I am still using my Chinese credit card.

    2. I used points only for my partner and me. Please see attachment 4&5: my marriage visa with my partner’s name on it and his German ID, attachment 6&7: the flights with him I booked with United airline in the future and past.

    3. The account is registered and used by me and only. I bought points through your official channel ‘buy points’, please see the attachment 8 of my credit card transaction for the purchase.

    4. I personally issued the flight for me and my partner, Nuremberg to Nice, and Marseille to Nuremberg, no others. I first tried to use the website, but it didn’t work. So I called the US hotline by Skype, and it probably shows a virtual Chinese caller number. Please see the attachment 9: my Skype call history, attachment 10-12: booking confirmations.

    5. My account has only the following transactions. If there is any other than those, it is not by me, and my account could be hacked.
    – registration
    – earned one Air Europa flight’s point
    – bought points from the official way
    – redeemed flights Nuremberg to Nice for my partner and me
    – redeemed flights Marseille to Nuremberg for my partner and me
    ====

    Now it seems I cannot get my account back. I will write to them to see if I can get refund for my purchased points, which I think is even less possible happening. Ah, I am feeling being robbed T.T

    Froggee 947 posts

    This is brutal.

    I would reply thanking them for their consideration and also their kind offer to arrange for you to speak directly to the fraud team.

    Then request the name and contact details of someone you can call.

    They will probably then say that you cannot contact the fraud department directly after all.

    Then I would ask for a refund of the £1,100 you spent buying points only for them to close your account. Very nicely I would say that it would be much simpler for them to facilitate a refund for this than you having to request a chargeback on your Chinese mastercard.

    As far as I can tell, chargeback is a global capability with mastercard so you should be able to investigate this with your bank in China. If you tell them that you think a British company has singled you out because you are Chinese this may help focus their attention!

    BBbetter 717 posts

    As a last resort (if none of the above work), request a SAR? or is that only for financial services provider?

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,169 posts

    Then I would ask for a refund of the £1,100 you spent buying points only for them to close your account. Very nicely I would say that it would be much simpler for them to facilitate a refund for this than you having to request a chargeback on your Chinese mastercard.

    As far as I can tell, chargeback is a global capability with mastercard so you should be able to investigate this with your bank in China. If you tell them that you think a British company has singled you out because you are Chinese this may help focus their attention!

    As has been mentioned previously the points weren’t bought from VS directly but pooints.com

    They will resist any chargeback on the basis they provided the points as purchased.

    Froggee 947 posts

    I’m aware of this but (1) it increases the hassle factor for Virgin; and (2) based upon the number of reported (successful) claims vs travel agents it is well worth a shot.

    The OP received unusable points which is also pertinent.

    dannyc 17 posts

    Probably need to shame them into doing something now publicly.

    If they refuse to do anything then I’m aware consumer rights are gaining a lot of traction in China currently…the government wouldn’t like to see a Chinese national treated unfairly by a foreign air carrier. There are tv programmes in China that focus on consumer scams / fraud / unfair treatment.

    You may also look into contacting UK travel journalists.

    JDB 4,514 posts

    @Froggee – the thing is that a chargeback is a very black and white procedure vs a s75 claim which the OP can’t make. If the merchant has supplied the goods (and they will provide evidence that they have) that’s the end of the story. It makes no difference whether the goods/services were defective, unusable etc. for a chargeback.

    It’s not as easy as some say to issue a claim that has good prospects and you need a UK service address. If Virgin doesn’t respond positively or at all within 14 days, I would write them a letter before claim. Start by saying you are disappointed that Virgin hasn’t responded constructively to your correspondence dated x and y and if this matter cannot now be concluded amicably, you will issue a claim in the County Court so this letter is written in accordance with the pre-action protocols of the Civil Procedure Rules and you reserve the right to show this letter to the court on any question of costs.

    Virgin has made a false and defamatory accusation of fraud against me and while the company has been provided with detailed evidence that no fraud has occurred, it has refused to consider such evidence. The term cited by VS as its justification for expropriation of the points acquired by me from the company at a cost of £X is a manifestly unfair contract term. No court will consider any assertion you might attempt to make about these points having no value when you have invited me to purchase such points via your delivery agent. Additional losses have also been incurred following Virgin’s other unlawful actions.

    Virgin’s refusal to consider the facts, and refusal to state the case against me contrary to consumer protection legislation, is contractually and procedurally unfair and contrary to natural justice under the common law. There are also grounds to suggest that Virgin may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 discriminating against me on the grounds of race, treating my ethnicity as an easy target to deprive me of basic consumer rights.

    The facts have been clearly set out in correspondence so you won’t rehearse them but it is in the interest of both parties to settle this matter amicably and promptly.

    Say you are willing to settle on the basis that Virgin pays you the sum of £x within 14 days failing which you will issue a claim for that sum, together with interest at the County Court rate and court fees and will also seek to recover the additional cost of Virgin’s unilateral and arbitrary actions in erroneously closing your account.

    dannyc 17 posts

    JDB has a good point. This will alert the VS legal department and get another pair of eyes to look over the details.

    points_worrier 297 posts

    This does seem harsh and unreasonable. Have you ever traveled on VS before, and caused any issue? Have you previously had a flying club account?
    Is your name similar to any other known people who may have previously caused issues with VS?

    Guernsey Globetrotter 603 posts

    As a last resort (if none of the above work), request a SAR? or is that only for financial services provider?

    Unfortunately, once you do down this type of compliance/fraud investigation rabbit hole, a subject access request is often of little use. If a financial services company has formed a view that you are a bad actor then they will likely consider all evidence of their consideration on this point to be exempt from the SAR. There is actually an example of this scenario set out on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/uk-gdpr-guidance-and-resources/exemptions/a-guide-to-the-data-protection-exemptions/

    It is frustrating where potentially innocent customers unwittingly fall into the Alice in Wonderland weirdness of anti-money laundering regulations. If you are incorrectly flagged and reported then you have a Catch-22 where nobody will talk to you, as to explain what they think you are guilty of could be ‘tipping you off’ (which is an offence in itself).

    The charge back route may be your only recourse. However, if you do get given the Loyalty Fraud Department contact details, I’d try one last time enclosing all the items you listed above and with a polite cover letter stating that you understand how the activity on your account may have looked unusual but that the evidence you enclose explains clearly the activity they saw and that you would be very grateful if your case could be reviewed.

    Do be prepared for this request to be rejected. You could then ask for this to be treated as a formal complaint, which should trigger another full review, but again there is no guarantee that the initial decision will be overturned. The business may just decide that your profile contains too many high risk indicators (China is a high risk country, credit card from outside your jurisdiction of residence etc) for their appetite. That is a legitimate business decision and one you have no right of appeal against.

    Sorry this has happened to you and thanks for sharing with the community. There’s a lesson for all of us here that financial institutions have different perspectives and imperatives that we may not be fully aware of and that if our touch points with them are over complex this may be misinterpreted and have negative consequences that are hard (or even impossible) to reverse.

    Guernsey Globetrotter 603 posts

    I see that while composing this response that @JDB has set-out an alternative and, I think, frankly better approach to this. I am not holding out a great deal of hope either way but wish you luck if you chose to take this further – persistence is a virtue!

    dannyc 17 posts

    OP if you get nowhere I would also suggest sending your story to a few other blogs. One Mile at a Time would have a field day with this…but only do this when everything has failed.

    can2 531 posts

    I wish you good luck, too..

    JDB 4,514 posts

    I see that while composing this response that @JDB has set-out an alternative and, I think, frankly better approach to this. I am not holding out a great deal of hope either way but wish you luck if you chose to take this further – persistence is a virtue!

    If done properly, the OP would have an extremely good prospect of winning and VS will ultimately recognise this. Virgin Atlantic isn’t a financial institution, so FCA rules don’t apply, nor should tipping off apply here. The issue is that no firm can either rely upon unfair contract terms nor deprive you of any consumer or common law rights by such a contract. They also cannot simply expropriate goods/services without cause whatever they might claim. A court should look at all the circumstances so if a person is found in serious breach of the contract then all bets are off.

    zotikus 18 posts

    @Froggee, I will write to require a refund. And also let them know if it doesn’t work within VS, I have no other choices but going legal and expose it to the public media. Hope this can give them a little pressure.


    @dannyc
    , yes travel journalists could open some doors. at least let more people know about VS’ nasty approach and stay away from them. any suggestions where?


    @JDB
    , thank you so much for the wording, it sounds so powerful and professional. Language is also a disadvantage for me. I am ready to get some legal support for this case if it comes to that point.


    @points_worrier
    , I have never traveled with VS, and this account is also my first. There could be someone with the same name, but my email and post address cannot be the same.

    @Guernsey Globetrotter, thanks for the insights. the customer service team and executive office both said they are unable to override loyalty fraud team’s decision, which I understand as they don’t have the right to do so. it seems the Fraud team is quite independent, but I still think there should be some team to do upper level audit or appeal. I will ask executive office if they are aware of any.

    And thank all of you for the support, it is quite frustrating and painful to fight with VS, but I will keep on trying

    BA Flyer IHG Stayer 2,169 posts



    @dannyc
    , yes travel journalists could open some doors. at least let more people know about VS’ nasty approach and stay away from them. any suggestions where?

    Only if they take up your case. They get who knows how many requests for help and they can’t (or more likly won’t) take up every requsts. Especially complex ones.

    They know which cases an airline will look into for them and those they won’t. They know their readers and what sort of cases they like to read about. They like simple cases that are easily understood and where the outcome is also easily understood by the average reader.

    Your case isn’t simple. It involves a Chinese credit card being used in Germany to buy points via a Canadian head quartered company for a UK based airline to buy flights on a European airline. And then you toss in some anti Chinesse accusations into the mix

    How is that remotly relatable / repeatable for most readers of travel sites / newspaper travel section?

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