by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – SOUTH Africans are encouraged to stay alert to the activity of scammers and fraudsters as the country enters the festive season.
These cons escalate their activities at this time of the year.
Several cases of travel fraud have stood out as prime examples of how vulnerable South Africans can be caught in criminal activity.
In a recent case, a woman now referred to as the ‘holiday swindler’, was alleged to have defrauded as many as 2 500 would-be travellers.
Christo Snyman, CEO of forensic investigative services company CS Forensics, commented on the issue.
He noted the so-called holiday swindler’s company touted luxury getaways, complete with first-class air tickets and five-star accommodation, to destinations such as the Maldives and Dubai.
“In many of the cases, former clients reported having paid for their trips and never having received booking confirmations. Some clients are owed as much as R68 000 for holidays that simply did not materialize,” said Snyman.
This is equivalent to US$3 500.
A similar case which stirred interest recently, travellers purchased direct flights to the Seychelles and the Maldives, which were later withdrawn by the airlines, however, the clients were never refunded.
The travel bookings agency responsible for these bookings has subsequently shut its doors, leaving a long list of clients out of pocket for up to R230 000.
CS Forensics recently investigated a case in which a travel agency was defrauded of an amount over R3 million.
The agency in question became liable for the accumulative amount after two independent agents used the agency as an intermediary to book flights for their clients.
Shortly after these flights had been booked, the agency received a flurry of “chargebacks” from the relevant airlines, with the agency becoming liable for the cost of the air tickets.
Upon further investigation, these chargebacks were traced back to a credit card used by the independent agents in question.
In another unrelated case, a complainant, who registered a criminal complaint against one of the same agents, is a high school principal who requested assistance with a group booking for 22 learners to travel to the United States.
The agent received two upfront payments from the school, however, the agent failed to make the necessary bookings.
The agent was arrested and appeared in one of the Regional Courts in Cape Town on charges of theft and fraud, totalling R683 880. The agent was released on R20 000 bail.
The agency has since been contacted by numerous airlines and passengers who purchased air tickets, but subsequently discovered that their tickets had been voided without their permission.
Several passengers also reported that they had been sold the tickets at discounts of up to 50 percent.
– CAJ News