SAS Accuses me of Money Laundering. Terrible Experience

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Sep 23, 2018
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#1
I had a very unpleasant and a serious problem with an SAS flight. Maybe the most bizarre experience I have had in my 40 years of air travel.
I bought tickets for my son and I on flight SK2591 Stockholm to Brussels and the bill cleared my credit card on June 17 (Tkt#s SAS 1xxxxxxxxxxxx and SAS 1xxxxxxxxxxxx). I was travelling for business, but brought my son along since it was school summer holidays.

When we got to the airport on the evening of June 28 and went to the bag drop, the agent looked puzzled and said he did not have my booking. I assured him that we really were there on the right day and if he just checked our names he would find it. After a few minutes, with a worried look, he made a phone call, a relatively long one in Swedish. When he got off the phone, somewhat nervously he explained to me that my booking was cancelled because of “suspicions of money laundering”. I was flabbergasted and of course asked if he was joking. No, he said, your booking was cancelled. “But here I am, and here is the credit card, and you can just run it though again and see its fine, cant you?”. No, he said, I would have to go talk to the sales office. I as the clock was now ticking, I didn’t want to argue here further, so my son and I grabbed our bags and ran over to the ticket counter. Before I ran I asked the man if this happens a lot and he said he had never seen it before. I was really worried by this point about being stranded in Arlanda for the night with my son.

I recapitulated the story to the woman at the ticket counter who said my booking was in the system yes, but it had been cancelled and I needed to buy a new ticket. “But why, there was no reason to cancel it, isn’t it your responsibility to honour the ticket?”. No she said, I didn’t have a ticket anymore, I had to buy a new one. “But I bought this two weeks ahead so I wouldn’t have to pay so much, how much is the ticket now”. The answer was, for the two tickets, 8488 SEK, about one thousand US dollars, or about two-and-a-half times what I originally paid.

I argued about this with her but she was quite unpleasant about it, saying, "do you want to buy a ticket or not". I said I just wanted the ticket that I bought, which SAS cancelled for no reason. Of course she said, we don’t know it was for no reason. All of this was super embarrassing of course in front of my child. Anyway, she just waited me out until the last minute and I had to buy the tickets or miss the last flight to Brussels.

I subsequently tried to argue this with SAS customer service by email throughout the month of August, but they were unwilling to accept any blame. They eventually found a pretext when after a few back and forths they informed me by email but that I gave them an incorrect email. Its hard for me to dispute that, because i dont have access to the original form, but in any case, this whole issue was their mistake and saying they emailed me about their crazy mistake doesnt absolve them of responsibility to fix it. Furthermore they had an opportunity to make this right at the airport, but instead were discourteous, and extorted an expensive airfare from me. I suppose i could have noticed that the airfare was refunded, but in fact that happened only several days after it cleared my Visa bill (and i did pay attention enough to notice it was paid). The amounts refunded were significantly less than the originals (likely the result of currency exchange) so i might not even have noticed if i had been eagerly checking my Visa bill during my business trip. Note also that I used the SAME credit card for the purchase of the double+ price tickets, indicating that I really am NOT a money launder.

All i have ever asked for is the difference between the cost of the two flights redeemed to me. Though I am Canadian I work for an organization based in Stockholm and I dont know why SAS wants to alienate a frequent flier over $500. If they cared not to alienate my teenage son, who potentially has a half-century of frequent flying left in him, they would give him a voucher for a free flight or something so that he doesnt bear a lifelong grudge against the airline that tried to ruin his summer vacation.

MarkM

Edited by a moderator to remove confirmation numbers
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,230
14,011
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
This is certainly strange. If they thought you were money laundering, why allow you to buy another ticket with the same credit card?

As a service to our readers, we post the names, numbers and email addresses of executives responsible for customer service at major companies in our Company Contacts Page.

If listed, start by writing to the senior customer service contact (listed under executive contacts). Tell them the issue and give them a week to respond. If they don’t respond or refuse to help, write to the next executive shown. If necessary, repeat weekly going up the chain of executives one at a time.

Do not start by writing to the CEO and do not write to all contacts at once. This could severely limit your ability to resolve your issue.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
How strange. Did you receive a confirmation flrom SAS after buying the ticket? I take it you did not check in on line the night before.

For whatever reason your credit card triggered a fraud algorithm. Do you have a Eurobonus FF account? Perhaps it was an email mismatch. Or was it on the bank’s end? What bank issued the credit card?

What is problematic is that if the email was incorrect and SAS sent you an email about the problem and you never got it, well they can claim that it is your fault,

Do you speak Swedish? Could you understand the telephone call? Perhaps the check in guy used the wrong English term for credit card fraud.

It is no secret that credit card fraud is a major problem and it is also no secret that Sweden has been under fire for weak anti money laundering oversights and that several banks are under serious investigation.But you know all that living in Sweden.

Also the ticketing people can only issue tickets at the current price, they cannot over ride the price.

How have you approached this with SAS?

Did you say the following to SAS:
If they cared not to alienate my teenage son, who potentially has a half-century of frequent flying left in him, they would give him a voucher for a free flight or something so that he doesnt bear a lifelong grudge against the airline that tried to ruin his summer vacation.

If I saw something like that —- well, SAS did not try to ruin his vacation, and someone who would bear a lifelong grudge is not someone that is a desirable customer. He could easily hold that grudge against you for not checking in online or seeing the credit transaction.

So what actually are you asking for?
 
Mar 23, 2015
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#4
Well that's a new one on me! Usually I can figure out at least some idea of "oh that's probably why this happened" or what the alleged "scheme" was but I'm bumfuzzled here. How does one launder money by buying an airline ticket??
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
15,230
14,011
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
Well that's a new one on me! Usually I can figure out at least some idea of "oh that's probably why this happened" or what the alleged "scheme" was but I'm bumfuzzled here. How does one launder money by buying an airline ticket??
If SAS tried to send an email to a nonexistent email address, this could set if fraud warnings.

To our writers- did you receive an email confirmation after you bought the ticket? If you did that negates the wrong email address theory. However, an email from them might have gone into spam.

I never delete my spam with without reviewing to see if something slipped through in error
 
Mar 23, 2015
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#6
If SAS tried to send an email to a nonexistent email address, this could set if fraud warnings.

To our writers- did you receive an email confirmation after you bought the ticket? If you did that negates the wrong email address theory. However, an email from them might have gone into spam.

I never delete my spam with without reviewing to see if something slipped through in error
Yeah, but I STILL can't figure out how one can launder money through purchasing a plane ticket...
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#9
Horrible story, Mark, and one for which you may never receive a clear explanation. I would definitely want to know what happened, so I urge you to pursue this. I assume your CC is from a major bank and there were no problems with your original res or confirmation. I would call the CC issuer and speak with the fraud department to see if you can glean any intel there.

If you want to use our Company Contacts to see if you can gain some insight into why this happened, it's important that you be polite and businesslike. The person reading your letter is in a position to help you, issue a boiler-plate response, or discard your letter. Your job is to make him want to help you. Bear in mind that someone thinks there was a potential crime involved here, and you need to convince them that it's all an error. Once you get it straightened out, perhaps there will be a path to some compensation. I'm sorry this happened to you, it must have been a nightmare.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Sep 23, 2018
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#10
Horrible story, Mark, and one for which you may never receive a clear explanation. I would definitely want to know what happened, so I urge you to pursue this. I assume your CC is from a major bank and there were no problems with your original res or confirmation. I would call the CC issuer and speak with the fraud department to see if you can glean any intel there.

If you want to use our Company Contacts to see if you can gain some insight into why this happened, it's important that you be polite and businesslike. The person reading your letter is in a position to help you, issue a boiler-plate response, or discard your letter. Your job is to make him want to help you. Bear in mind that someone thinks there was a potential crime involved here, and you need to convince them that it's all an error. Once you get it straightened out, perhaps there will be a path to some compensation. I'm sorry this happened to you, it must have been a nightmare.
I did call the my credit card company and they said that they have no idea why this happened and they had no enquiry about the card during that period. Its TD Visa.
 
Sep 23, 2018
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#11
How strange. Did you receive a confirmation flrom SAS after buying the ticket? I take it you did not check in on line the night before.

For whatever reason your credit card triggered a fraud algorithm. Do you have a Eurobonus FF account? Perhaps it was an email mismatch. Or was it on the bank’s end? What bank issued the credit card?

What is problematic is that if the email was incorrect and SAS sent you an email about the problem and you never got it, well they can claim that it is your fault,

Do you speak Swedish? Could you understand the telephone call? Perhaps the check in guy used the wrong English term for credit card fraud.

It is no secret that credit card fraud is a major problem and it is also no secret that Sweden has been under fire for weak anti money laundering oversights and that several banks are under serious investigation.But you know all that living in Sweden.

Also the ticketing people can only issue tickets at the current price, they cannot over ride the price.

How have you approached this with SAS?

Did you say the following to SAS:
If they cared not to alienate my teenage son, who potentially has a half-century of frequent flying left in him, they would give him a voucher for a free flight or something so that he doesnt bear a lifelong grudge against the airline that tried to ruin his summer vacation.

If I saw something like that —- well, SAS did not try to ruin his vacation, and someone who would bear a lifelong grudge is not someone that is a desirable customer. He could easily hold that grudge against you for not checking in online or seeing the credit transaction.

So what actually are you asking for?
I would like a refund of the difference between the price I paid, and the price that they charged me after they cancelled my ticket.
 
Feb 17, 2018
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#12
Some of the foreign airlines are randomly requiring a completion of a credit card verification form when booking tickets online. They normally will email this with your reservation confirmation. If they don't get the completed form back to them in 24 to 48 hours they will cancel the tickets. This may be what happen in your case.
 
Apr 19, 2017
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#14
Well that's a new one on me! Usually I can figure out at least some idea of "oh that's probably why this happened" or what the alleged "scheme" was but I'm bumfuzzled here. How does one launder money by buying an airline ticket??
The only circumstance in which you can be accused of money laundering by buying an air ticket is when you pay cash. Money laundering can't happen with a credit card purchase, so obviously the gate agent was just using whatever handiest excuse she could find for sticking you with a new ticket at walkup prices. Her accepting the same credit card for the walkup ticket is proof of scam.

You may have been tightly scheduled that day, but if that happened to me on a Stockholm-Brussels trip I would take one of Europe's beautiful and luxurious trains for a fraction of the price, and forget that SAS ever existed.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#15
The only circumstance in which you can be accused of money laundering by buying an air ticket is when you pay cash. Money laundering can't happen with a credit card purchase, so obviously the gate agent was just using whatever handiest excuse she could find for sticking you with a new ticket at walkup prices. Her accepting the same credit card for the walkup ticket is proof of scam.

You may have been tightly scheduled that day, but if that happened to me on a Stockholm-Brussels trip I would take one of Europe's beautiful and luxurious trains for a fraction of the price, and forget that SAS ever existed.
It is not a scam if the airline contacted the passenger about an irregularity or if the card was flagged by the airline for security -- the OP admitted that the flight was refunded before departure and never noticed it. And the OP has not denied giving SAS the wrong email address.

A train would take what, 20 hours?

The check in guy used the wrong term in a foreign language; is that really a sign of a scam? I have had "card not present" charges flagged, particularly in a foreign country. I have had to sign an authorization form and email it back.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#16
In further response to the accusation that this is a scam-

SAS does send emails asking for verification when a credit card transaction trips the fraud algorithm.

Why do they do this? Because credit card fraud is a serious problem— fake and stolen credit cards are estimated to cost airlines $600 million per year. That is the amount that the airlines are stuck with.

Do not think it happens in Europe ? well Europol announced in 2016 that a massive international fraud ring was broken and 160 people arrested.

So a thought — if a confirmation email does not arrive get in touch with the airline in case email address had a typo.
 
May 26, 2018
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#17
I had a very unpleasant and a serious problem with an SAS flight. Maybe the most bizarre experience I have had in my 40 years of air travel.
I bought tickets for my son and I on flight SK2591 Stockholm to Brussels and the bill cleared my credit card on June 17 (Tkt#s SAS 1xxxxxxxxxxxx and SAS 1xxxxxxxxxxxx). I was travelling for business, but brought my son along since it was school summer holidays.

When we got to the airport on the evening of June 28 and went to the bag drop, the agent looked puzzled and said he did not have my booking. I assured him that we really were there on the right day and if he just checked our names he would find it. After a few minutes, with a worried look, he made a phone call, a relatively long one in Swedish. When he got off the phone, somewhat nervously he explained to me that my booking was cancelled because of “suspicions of money laundering”. I was flabbergasted and of course asked if he was joking. No, he said, your booking was cancelled. “But here I am, and here is the credit card, and you can just run it though again and see its fine, cant you?”. No, he said, I would have to go talk to the sales office. I as the clock was now ticking, I didn’t want to argue here further, so my son and I grabbed our bags and ran over to the ticket counter. Before I ran I asked the man if this happens a lot and he said he had never seen it before. I was really worried by this point about being stranded in Arlanda for the night with my son.

I recapitulated the story to the woman at the ticket counter who said my booking was in the system yes, but it had been cancelled and I needed to buy a new ticket. “But why, there was no reason to cancel it, isn’t it your responsibility to honour the ticket?”. No she said, I didn’t have a ticket anymore, I had to buy a new one. “But I bought this two weeks ahead so I wouldn’t have to pay so much, how much is the ticket now”. The answer was, for the two tickets, 8488 SEK, about one thousand US dollars, or about two-and-a-half times what I originally paid.

I argued about this with her but she was quite unpleasant about it, saying, "do you want to buy a ticket or not". I said I just wanted the ticket that I bought, which SAS cancelled for no reason. Of course she said, we don’t know it was for no reason. All of this was super embarrassing of course in front of my child. Anyway, she just waited me out until the last minute and I had to buy the tickets or miss the last flight to Brussels.

I subsequently tried to argue this with SAS customer service by email throughout the month of August, but they were unwilling to accept any blame. They eventually found a pretext when after a few back and forths they informed me by email but that I gave them an incorrect email. Its hard for me to dispute that, because i dont have access to the original form, but in any case, this whole issue was their mistake and saying they emailed me about their crazy mistake doesnt absolve them of responsibility to fix it. Furthermore they had an opportunity to make this right at the airport, but instead were discourteous, and extorted an expensive airfare from me. I suppose i could have noticed that the airfare was refunded, but in fact that happened only several days after it cleared my Visa bill (and i did pay attention enough to notice it was paid). The amounts refunded were significantly less than the originals (likely the result of currency exchange) so i might not even have noticed if i had been eagerly checking my Visa bill during my business trip. Note also that I used the SAME credit card for the purchase of the double+ price tickets, indicating that I really am NOT a money launder.

All i have ever asked for is the difference between the cost of the two flights redeemed to me. Though I am Canadian I work for an organization based in Stockholm and I dont know why SAS wants to alienate a frequent flier over $500. If they cared not to alienate my teenage son, who potentially has a half-century of frequent flying left in him, they would give him a voucher for a free flight or something so that he doesnt bear a lifelong grudge against the airline that tried to ruin his summer vacation.

MarkM

Edited by a moderator to remove confirmation numbers
Mark,

This is a very strange case. While you say that the ticket agent was unpleasant, I presume you mean after you kept demanding that SAS honor the previous ticket. I'm sure that this was not something that could be done at the ticket lobby level and the agent may - reasonably - have become frustrated with as you obviously were frustrated at her. At the same time, it's difficult to understand why they cancelled your ticket based on a suspicion that you were a potential money launderer! First of all, an individual who was doing something like that would be paying either in cash or via some form of short term and untraceable instrument such as a pre-paid card or money-order. I think you are owed the difference in the ticket price plus some type of good will gesture; perhaps a complimentary upgrade to the next class of service on your next SAS flight. A free flight would not be out of order but is probably more than you are likely to get. You were wise not to threaten legal action as that generally dooms any attempt to get satisfaction through the customer service process. That said, I think you are entitled to an explanation of their suspicion, most especially since they accepted payment through the very same Visa card you used for the original reservation.

Bob Skinner
 
May 26, 2018
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#18
Yeah, but I STILL can't figure out how one can launder money through purchasing a plane ticket...
Hi, Neal, not sure how it can be done in Sweden but I've definitely heard of people buying the paper type of ticket - which do still exist - in order to get cash out of a country with strict laws against taking currency out of the country. Once out of the country they cash in the remainder of the tickets for new currency. I suppose a criminal might launder money that way. I don't think this is related to Mark's case, however. Bob