NSW Fair Trading and NSW Police are investigating an air ticket swindle in which hundreds of Vietnamese students have been sold fake tickets by somebody operating through Facebook.
Viet Nam News, a local English-language daily newspaper aimed at Australia’s Vietnamese community, says initial information suggests those behind the scam may be Vietnamese and based in Australia.
Vietnam Airlines is helping students to check their tickets.
Vietnamese Dynamic Students (VDS) in New South Wales told Viet Nam News that more than 300 Vietnamese students in Sydney and Melbourne have been duped by the swindle, in which cheap air tickets, purportedly on Vietnam Airlines, were offered through someone operating a Facebook account.
Vietnam News Agency says the amount involved may total AUD 500,000, which would reportedly make the rip-off the biggest-ever fraud perpetrated on Vietnamese students in Australia.
According to victims, all conversations and return air ticket bookings were made through Facebook or by phone calls to a Vietnamese woman.
After booking, students were required to transfer money into bank accounts.
Return tickets sold on the Facebook site were usually AUD 300 to AUD 700 cheaper than those sold through official agencies, the report said. For months, the tickets were genuine and valid.
As news of the amazing deals spread quickly by word-of-mouth, other students rushed to book. The bargains seemed too good to be true – and in the end that’s what they turned out to be. The sting involved e-tickets being issued which were found to be fake at check-in, with no reservations recorded. In other cases, tickets never arrived.
The Facebook account is then reported to have been closed and the phone associated with the bookings cut off.
January, the run-up to the traditional Tet (Lunar New Year), is a peak time for travel to Vietnam, so bookings were heavy. Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet for short, is the country’s biggest and most popular annual festival. It begins this year on 7 February 2016 (New Year’s Eve) with festivities running till 14 February 2016, which also happens to be St Valentine’s Day.
After news of the scam broke, Vietnamese Consul General in Sydney, Hoang Minh Son, advised students to stay calm, obey Australian law and rely on official announcements, not on unverified information circulating on the internet, Vietnam News Agency reported.
A Vietnam Airlines representative in Sydney said the airline would do its utmost to help students check the status of their tickets, and would assist those who needed to repurchase tickets to go home for Tet holidays. Anyone needing help in the matter should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Peter Needham