Airline scam or not?
June 24, 2008 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Why would a major airline help desk consultant ask for my phone number? Was I scammed?

Last week while traveling, I called my airline help line to see why my plane was delayed and if there would be any further delays that he knew of. He was very kind and told me that he wasn't sure why my flight was delayed, but as of that point in time, there were no other known delays coming up regarding that flight. Then the person asked me for my phone number so that his airline could contact me if there was any other delay information regarding this flight. I thanked him and gave him my number. Immediately afterwards, I wondered if I had done the right thing.

As a sidenote, I am an American and am pretty sure that my airline farms out much of its phone help to India and the person on I was talking to seemed to have a thick Indian accent. I guess with all of the news about international phone scams, etc... I worried more about this than usual.

Was I scammed into giving out my cell phone number? And what is the worst that can happen to me here if I was scammed (he had my phone number, and any other frequent flyer information he was able to pull up on his computer).

I am a bit nervous because I have already had my identity stolen once and used internationally. Any thoughts. Thanks.

I noticed that the voice of the person helping me had a distinct Indian accent. I know that many phone services are farmed out to foreign countries so this
posted by boots77 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Response by poster: Oops! Please excuse the last semi-sentence. I forgot that I moved this information to the bottom of the page before posting, and I didn't know how to go back and edit the information.
posted by boots77 at 5:46 AM on June 24, 2008

You had already identified yourself so presumably the airline already knew your phone number, and presumably so did he. Sounds like he was just checking that it was the right phone number.
posted by grouse at 5:49 AM on June 24, 2008

Why would a major airline help desk consultant ask for my phone number? ... Then the person asked me for my phone number so that his airline could contact me if there was any other delay information regarding this flight.

My guess is that he asked for your phone number so he could contact you if there was any other delay information regarding your filght.
posted by Perplexity at 5:57 AM on June 24, 2008 [5 favorites]

First of all, you called a (presumably) published help line for a (presumably) major airline. In other words, they didn't call you.

Second, a phone number isn't exactly something you need to protect per se. Believe it or not, in the old days, there were actually books which listed thousands of phone numbers which anyone could access! He already had you regular phone number and much more sensitive information than that.

So relax.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you called him I wouldn't worry about it. They're probably just verifying your contact details for their records. I think the worst that can happen is you might end up getting a few unwanted sales calls in the future.
posted by gfrobe at 5:58 AM on June 24, 2008

I am not aware of any scam that could be perpetrated by someone possessing your phone number, even if that person possesses a distinct Indian accent.
posted by unSane at 6:00 AM on June 24, 2008 [14 favorites]

Yeah, this seems pretty paranoid on your part, companies always want to know people's phone numbers, since it adds value to their CRM databases (customer relations databases). I doubt they'll ever call you, even if there is a delay
posted by delmoi at 6:01 AM on June 24, 2008

Any time you call anyone you're at "risk" of having your phone number known if their phone system is equipped with caller ID. It's not like he asked for your Social Security Number, here. What kind of scam could he possibly perpetrate by confirming your phone number?
posted by kate blank at 6:04 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's absolutely positively normal and necessary and appropriate for the airline to request and know your CURRENT (as of today, this minute) phone number so they can contact you with delay information. I was called out of the blue by NWA the day before my trip to let me know the flight I had booked was cancelled, but I and my friends had been rebooked on another flight a few hours later. If they did not have my contact info, we might have spent a frustrating morning at the airport.

Because of that episode, I always and without hesitation provide my cell phone number to the airline when booking so they can let me know right away if my plans need to be changed.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:14 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

The way flying is these days, one of the best things a traveler can do is to sign up for their airline's notification service. Many will send delay and cancellation emails, text messages, and phone calls to your address/phone number of choice.

Last fall, at 11pm the night before a flight I got a call from the airline notifying me of its cancellation. I got on the phone right away and rebooked to the next flight. The next day there were MANY disgruntled passengers who came to the airport only to find out the flight was nixed. And they couldn't get on the next flight.

It seems they send out these notifications almost immediately upon changing a flight's status.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:48 AM on June 24, 2008

Definitely not a scam. Several airlines I'm a frequent traveller with always check my phone number when I call.
SAS sends me SMS texts when flights change or to remind me of check-in times. Very useful.

Possession of an Indian accent, or any other for that matter does not mean you are more likely to be a scammer.

....I speak as an English guy who is fed up of always seeing English accents belong to the bad guy in movies. Although it has kept Alan Rickman and Julian Sands in a job.
posted by arcticseal at 6:58 AM on June 24, 2008

BigLankyBastard makes an excellent point about the airline needing your current number. What if this flight you were making was the return trip and the airline had your home number? You'd be at airport, annoyed and confused, and they'd have left a message on your home phone informing you of the delay.
posted by kate blank at 7:31 AM on June 24, 2008

It's absolutely normal and it will help if there are further delays.

I had a 6 PM Perth-Melbourne flight cancelled earlier this year. The airline called me at 11 AM to tell me they'd have to put me on a midnight flight which was the only other flight that day). When I got to the airport there were a number of surly people who the airline wasn't able to contact, who'd gotten to the airport at 5 PM and had been there for hours, bored and angry. Because they were able to contact me, I spent my six extra hours chilling out in Perth, going shopping and having a good meal.

I was still pretty cross at the delay (especially since they put me on a flight to Brisbane and then one from there to Melbourne, meaning I got home a good ten hours after I should have) but I didn't take out my frustration on the person on the phone; they did actually give me a credit for the entire cost of the return flight, and at least they informed me in plenty of time and I was able to make plans accordingly.
posted by andraste at 7:28 PM on June 24, 2008

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