Fake Travel Agencies: How They Work
This is one of the most common travel scams out there, along with the travel club membership rip-offs. It happens especially when hot destinations are on everybody’s mind. Criminals create great looking websites for “new” travel agencies offering amazing deals. Wouldn’t you like to brag to your friends that you found, say, Italy tour packages including airfare for only $650? Or that they found timeshares for sale at $289/year? Or that they offer a fabulous Southwest Airlines giveaway?
In this article, we take a look not only at bogus travel agencies but also at ones that have a business license but use deceptive practices. Most importantly, we will show you how to know if a website is fake or not.
So, how do these scams work? Watch the video below to see the Fake Travel Agency scam exposed:
The scammers use travel pictures stolen from the Internet to promote their destinations. They create fake travel agencies for a month at a time, get hundreds of avid tourists who pay for plane tickets on the spot, and then close down the “business”.
Is it that simple? Yes. Let’s continue.
Websites are created in such a high quality that is really hard to differentiate a real business than a fake one. Tricksters then proceed to buy a bunch of Google AdWords or Facebook ads and close deals on spot. After a month of work ‘in’, they collect, shuts down the website, and create a new one. And the show goes on.
But that’s not all.
In a different variation of the scam, criminals create duplicate websites of real travel agencies. They use legitimate logos and offer amazing travel deals, luring the victims into filling out an application with their personal information, including credit card numbers which are charged right away.
But we have good news.
How To Tell If A Travel Website Is Fake
There are two great ways to avoid all the fake travel sites. Let’s show you how to easily detect and block them at the same time.
1. There is a powerful tool that notifies you if a website is real or not. You should safely install a browser extension called Guardio HERE (we tested it, it works and is worth every penny). It automatically blocks 100x more harmful websites than competitors and 10x more malicious downloads than any other security tool. That includes fake travel websites, too. Very effective.
2. If you feel a website might be suspicious, feel free to verify it using our unique Scam Detector website validator below:
How To Avoid Fake Travel Deals
Before you book your next holiday vacation, search on-line for the name of the provider and for several reviews. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Use recommendations from your friends or visit a local travel agency.
If you choose the online option, rely only on reputable companies that have great feedback for their good deals. Also, ask top travel influencers if they have any feedback on the company you have doubts about.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to consider unique bucket list trips such as The SPARK Experience, a new annual viral event for people who are selected to join according to their charisma and life lessons, regardless of their age or jobs. You can enter your name for once-in-a-lifetime trips to Thailand Italy, Brazil, Transylvania or the Maldives on their site. Here is a quick video about one of their experiences:
New Example of Questionable Deal: When a $37 Airplane Ticket Turns Into $235 with FlightsTicketGo.com
We received a desperate email from a reader, called Arne I., who booked a national flight on www.flightsticketgo.com for $37.50, but in the end, the charges were $235. Arne explains:
“I booked a domestic ticket (Davao-Manila Davao) which as per their webpage would cost US$35.50 which is a very good fare, about 50% of what others offered for same/similar flight“.
However, when I paid the amount charged was US$129.63 FOR HOLD TICKET FEE or 55% of the total fee with a balance of US$106.06 to be paid to get the actual ticket! Total price US$235.69 or almost 10 x the price given on their website!!!! I contacted them by email for cancellation and refund of the US$129.63 “HOLD TICKET FEE” but they refuse and just give me the runaround….”
FlightsTicketGo.com has plenty of negative reviews online.
Another Fake Flight Agent Example
On TripAdvisor, one traveler named Louisvella said: “I just tried to book with flightsticketgo from Bangkok to London Gatwick. The price on their site was $144 when I booked it came as $469.20 and money was taken from the debit card. Then a second payment was required to get the ticket $384. Tried to ring them several times on the 2 number that they advertise. One in Singapore and one in the UK but no reply.”
Another reviewer, Elma C, wrote about the fake flight agent case:
“It’s been 3 days that they aren’t replying. I’m now convinced they really are a scam. Hopefully, we could help each other regarding this matter. I’m not from the US. So if anybody from the US out there please report this site. Let’s prevent more victims on this one.”
To justify their charges, FlightsTicketGo.com has an explanation of their fees on their website here. However, many clients complain that the total charges are not showing on the checkout page or on the confirmation email when users buy their plane tickets.
How To Report Fake Travel Agencies:
Make your family and friends aware of this scam by sharing it on social media using the buttons provided. You can also officially report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission using the link below:
Be also aware of the Airline Ticket Confirmation Scam.
How To Protect Yourself More:
If you want to be the first to find out the most notorious scams every week, feel free to subscribe to the Scam Detector newsletter here. You’ll receive periodical emails and we promise not to spam. Last but not least, use the Comments section below to expose other scammers.
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