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‘Use an agent,’ says ACCC as scammers rip-off a fortune

October 20, 2014 Corporate, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is advising consumers to book their travel and holidays through accredited Australian travel agents.

The ACCC issued its advice after receiving 1650 complaints about travel scams this year, with AUD 100,000 reported lost.

“Book through an accredited agent,” the ACCC advised. “If you are looking to go on a holiday, you can use a travel agent to make sure you get legitimate accommodation.

“If using a travel agent, find out if they are accredited through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ ATAS scheme. ATAS-accredited agents must abide by a code of conduct and have dispute resolution procedures in place.”

An upsurge in travel scams has prompted the ACCC to issue a warning to consumers. Specifically, it has warned consumers that “simply searching online for a holiday” can make them a target for scammers.

Most victims of the recent scams were contacted by phone and many were offered holiday vouchers for AUD 2000 or AUD 3000, the ACCC said. Others were sold fake trips to Florida or the Bahamas including tickets to theme parks or cruises at greatly discounted rates.

Scammers have recently been targeting homes and businesses with a fraudulent phone message from Qantas or Virgin, which claims they have won a “travel prize” or “credit points” – typically AUD 999 – towards their next holiday. In order to redeem the credit, consumers have to answer several questions, including handing over credit card details so that the “prize” can be processed.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard warned consumers in the following terms.

“While you are making plans for a hard-earned break, scammers are plotting to steal your hard-earned dollars. Simply searching online for a holiday can alert scammers that you are a potential target and they won’t hesitate to approach you with travel vouchers or offers that always turn out to be too good to be true.

“Watch out for these fraudsters cold calling and announcing that you’ve won a travel prize, ranging from discount accommodation vouchers to whole holiday packages. To redeem the prize, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your credit card and drivers’ licence details before they can send it to you.

“Sometimes scammers will provide authentic-looking tickets and itineraries but when it comes time to travel, these documents are useless and the business cannot be contacted.”

The ACCC is reiterating the following advice to consumers:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Many scams will promote “free”, “complimentary” and “discounted” deals that may sound so appealing that they are hard to resist. Find out if the offer is the real deal – call the holiday accommodation provider directly, research the “business” that you’re dealing with, and search online for reviews.
  • Know who you’re dealing with: If you have doubts about the identity of any caller who claims to represent a business, organisation or government department, contact the body directly. Don’t rely on contact details provided by the person – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Book through an accredited agent: If you are looking to go on a holiday, you can use a travel agent to make sure you get legitimate accommodation. If using a travel agent, find out if they are accredited through the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ ATAS scheme. ATAS-accredited agents must abide by a code of conduct and have dispute resolution procedures in place.
  • The way you pay matters: Different means of payment offer different protections. Be wary of requests for cheques, bank or wire transfers when booking travel. If booking online, choose secure payment methods. If you pay with a credit card, you may be able to seek a chargeback if you don’t get what you pay for.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, report it: If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Edited by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nicky says:

    And this is a surprise? The writing was on the wall once the TCF was given the flick.

  2. David says:

    Hi Nicky,

    This has nothing to do with TCF, that was to protect consumers against licenced agents going bankrupt or disappearing, scams have always existed but are on the increase, so the value of an agent has increased as well.

    I am an ex agent in case you are wondering and can think of many other reasons to still use one AFTER you have done your research online.

    Cheers
    David

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