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Customers who unwittingly paid for someone else’s vacation denied refunds

Posted at 11:15 AM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2021-03-18 10:19:40-04

BALTIMORE — Customers who paid thousands for a cruise to the Mediterranean were later told they won't be sailing and, for some, won't be getting refunds.

In September, WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii first reported on the investigation into Hopkins Travel Services and its owner, Diana Hopkins, who has been accused of committing credit card fraud.

Norwegian Cruise Line sent a letter to customers letting them know their trips were canceled because it appeared Hopkins committed credit card fraud. Customers also received invoices showing the dozens of different cards used to book their reservations.

RELATED: Cruise line claims travel agent committed credit card fraud

Faced with a financial mess, NCL issued refunds, but not to everyone.

Some customers, including Dan Zimmerman, were told their payments went to trips that had already sailed.

He then disputed the charge with his credit card company, and NCL disputed the chargeback.

“They had sent an invoice to my credit card company, Citibank, saying that they had, the services had been rendered. Despite the fact that they had been rendered to three complete strangers for a completely different trip than the one that I had booked,” said Zimmerman.

An NCL employee sent an email to Zimmerman confirming that his $2,070 was used on a cruise that sailed to Hawaii in August.

Citibank denied Zimmerman's dispute even though he thought he was paying for himself to go on a cruise to Greece in May of 2021.

“I was incredulous. It was like are you kidding me?” said Zimmerman.

Another customer sent WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii paperwork showing a similar issue. The woman paid $2,500 to go on a cruise to Greece in 2021 only to find out her money went to a cruise to the Bahamas in June.

The documents also show that one of the passengers traveling on her dime was Diana Hopkins, the woman she paid to book her trip, along with four other people, two of whom share the same last name.

American Express denied the dispute after receiving the documents from NCL.

Phillip Chalker, an attorney with the Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker, said people should continue fighting the charges with their credit card companies.

“And make the argument - I was not given the product I purchased. I purchased a ticket for me to go on a cruise line. So if NCL is saying you received what you paid for, you bought a ticket for the cruise line, your answer is no, I bought a ticket for myself on the cruise line and not for someone else,” said Chalker.

If the dispute is unsuccessful, he recommends people contact an attorney or reach out to a government organization such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who can then lodge another dispute with your credit card company on your behalf.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii sent NCL multiple emails asking about their billing and accounting practices and how they plan to prevent this from happening to future customers. She did not hear back.

“At the very least, I think Norwegian was sloppy and just irresponsible ,” said Zimmerman. “It strikes me that the bad PR that they're getting is going to cost them more than it would be if they just said, okay, this happened on our watch, even though we're not admitting any guilt, we're going to make everybody whole. That's what I think they should do.”

To see more of Mallory's reporting on this story, click the links below.

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