North Texas

Woman Falls Victim to Travel Points Scheme, Calls NBC 5

A North Texas grandmother just wanted to take her grand kids to Disney World. She thought she was buying travel points at a huge discount, but she said the person selling the points took her money and ran.

Kids can be a handful, but Lynn Hermann wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm the vacation planner. We love vacations," she said. "This year we have nine babies, eight adults. We're going to need a lot of space. I didn't have enough points in my own account to use for that trip."

Hermann is a Disney Vacation Club member. She visits different online Disney forums to transfer points with other members.

"I have bought points from them before. And you do a transaction and there is some trust involved," she explained.

Here's how it works:

Hermann said club members sell and transfer vacation points. She said it's much cheaper than buying directly from Disney and has saved her a lot of money on resorts in the past. So earlier this year, she put out a request for points.

"Less than 24 hours, I had someone contact me," Hermann said.

A man named Gary sent her an email. He even sent her a screen shot verifying that he had points. They spent the week negotiating and eventually agreed on a price: 347 vacation points for $4,500.

"I was trying to explain to him how I wanted to do a three-way call with Disney. I would put the money in his account, he would transfer me the points," she said. "He said his phone connection was not very good."

He emailed her saying he wanted to transfer through PayPal. If she paid half up front, he'd send her all of the points.

So, Hermann sent $2437 to his PayPal account. But the points hadn't been transferred.

When the responses eventually stopped, Hermann realized she may have a problem, so she called her bank.

"The gentleman said once you do those money deposits, those direct sent to PayPal, we can't stop it. I said I don't care what you have to do, stop it," she said.

She struck out with the bank and called PayPal.

"He put me on hold and I think he was talking to some manager. He came back and said we're going to put a note on your account. We're going to do the best we can you know to stop this," she said.

But two days later, they got an email from PayPal denying their claim because the transaction "was not unauthorized."

"I was kind of sick to my stomach and didn't know what to do," Hermann said.

She spent the next month trying to track the man down. After looking online, she found other consumers discussing "Gary" on forums, travelers who had also been ripped off.

She said she filed a police report and sent PayPal more evidence of what she considered fraud. When PayPal disagreed, she contacted NBC 5 Responds.

PayPal told NBC 5 it recommends that customers understand who they are buying from and, as an additional safeguard, use the "goods and services" option instead of the instant transfer option, which is intended for friends and family.

Consumers should select the "Goods" payment when paying for something that they didn't buy on EBay. They should use the "Services" payment option when the purchase is not a product but a service.

PayPal said "While there was not sufficient information to confirm any fraudulent activities had occurred, our teams have worked with the customer to positively resolve the issue."

That same day, Hermann got a refund of $2,437.50.

It's a lesson learned for the busy grandmother.

"I wasn't going to tell anybody because I'm embarrassed of what I did. But if it helps somebody then it will be worth it." she said.

Regardless of the nature of your transaction, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Never send money to an individual that you've never met.
• Also a little research goes a long way. Do your homework! Don't get caught up on a good deal. It can wind up costing you thousands in the long run.
• Trust your gut. If it doesn't feel right, take a pass!

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