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Beware of travel scams this festive season

Consumers whose holiday plans have gone awry because they booked a holiday package that was simply too good to be true regularly contact the Association of Southern African Travel Agents.

The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) warns travellers to beware of popular travel scams during the December holidays.

Many travellers have seen their international travel plans cancelled or postponed as a result of border closures following the discovery of the Omicron variant. As these travellers are now looking for last-minute deals for local holidays, it is important to be extremely vigilant for scam artists.

ASATA is contacted regularly by consumers whose holiday plans have gone awry because they booked a holiday package that was simply too good to be true, or were scammed and defrauded by a travel provider. This is especially true in the run-up to the December holidays.

“We see the level of complaints rise in the run-up to school holidays. With many travellers now ‘panic buying’ to save their December break, it is more important than ever to be on the lookout for scamsters,” says Otto de Vries, ASATA CEO.

Christo Snyman, National Director at Mazars agrees, “Fraud is very real, and tends to peak during this time of year. It is vital that we all take the time to increase our awareness of fraud tactics and to know which warning signs to look for. As a first rule of thumb, it is imperative that the travel agency you use is a member of ASATA.”

Take note of these tips before you book:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Alarm bells should go off if your holiday is a real steal. Travel tricksters tend to hook unsuspecting customers by offering too good to be true airfares and package holiday prices. Check with a reputable travel agent, tour operator or airline what the ‘normal’ price for the air ticket or holiday would be.

  1. Make sure the logo is legit

Peruse the website, advertisement and travel documentation you are looking at and search for the ASATA stamp of credibility. ASATA members comply with a code of conduct and constitution that requires them to abide by the laws of the land and prove that they are legitimate travel businesses that protect the interests of their customers.

  1. Shabby marketing

If you are seeing blurry, fuzzy logos or low-resolution images on print marketing collateral or travel documentation, be on alert. Travel con artists will sometimes copy and paste extracts from genuine travel companies to make it seem as if their offer is legitimate. Ensure that you are on a secure website and not a ‘spoof’ site by clicking on the security icon on your browser tool bar to see that the URL begins with https rather than http. And, always check with ASATA whether the company is a bona fide travel company that is accredited.

  1. EFT or nothing – NO WAY

If you’re pressured into paying via EFT only, this actually means you’re paying by cash. Safeguard yourself by paying on credit card so your purchase is protected. If you pay by EFT, you will struggle to get your funds reimbursed if the supplier is found to have committed travel fraud.

  1. Something smells phishy

If you’ve booked using a booking site, watch out for any phishing emails. E-mails could be from scammers impersonating famous booking sites, claiming there was an issue with your booking. Never click on suspicious links to provide your banking details.

  1. It’s your holiday, do the research

Before you work with an unfamiliar travel brand, try Googling it to see if there are any reviews or warnings about the company. If they’ve been involved in fraud before, you may find that other customers have posted their experiences online.

Travel scammers work around the clock and often tend to find you first, typically revealing themselves around the main holiday seasons. “Always trust your intuition. And when in doubt, consult an ASATA travel agent,” concludes de Vries.


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