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Dealing with Fraudsters: TA's Share Their Stories

Dealing with Fraudsters: TA’s Share Their Stories

Are you dealing with fraudsters? Travel fraud has been a huge topic in the industry lately.

Last week we shared these 5 red flags to watch for to help safeguard your travel agency against fraud.

This week we are sharing two stories from travel advisors concerning fraud. One with a good ending — both with a good lesson. We normally love to give our agents a shoutout for graciously sharing their stories. But for the sake of privacy, we’ve decided to leave these two anonymous.

If you have your own fraud story or tips, be sure to leave a note in the comment section below!

Story 1: Listen to your gut

I had a potential client call wanting assistance with air and a hotel to Dubai, departing from the U.S. I booked it but felt something was very wrong. Even so I very clearly explained my fee. He signed my terms and conditions and completed all of his personal information, including credit card information. However, after the fact, rejected the credit card payment for my fee, and I received a notice of a chargeback notice from the supplier used for the hotel. I should have trusted my gut, and will not make that mistake again.

Story 2: A case of sophisticated fraud

My story goes back to the early 2000s while I was working for the round-the-world niche outfit on the West Coast. We had long-known about all of the fraud that originates out of West Africa*. I personally refused to have anything to do with booking travel that originated from a West African departure city, it was so bad. At the time fraudsters would use companies’ deaf services to hide the fact that they were from West Africa. The poor telephone operators knew they were scammers, but either the law or company policy required them to take the call.

Of course not everyone in West Africa was a fraudster when needing one-way travel out of West Africa. There were the perfectly innocent Peace Corps volunteers needing flights back home. Unfortunately, they were definitely a very TINY minority of the contacts we got in. And, with it being so hard to truly verify they were for real, I still refused to deal with those requests. However, my office manager felt sorry for those Peace Corps people and would still respond to those requests just in case the travel request truly was from a Peace Corps volunteer.

She took a booking from one for a one-way from Dubai to the US leaving in about 3 days. Yes, all the red flags were there, but she got all of the faxed copies of the documents required, including passport copies, credit card companies, and matching signatures. She issued the ticket. Of course, this was all fraudulent. By sheer LUCK, the credit card incredibly happened to belong to one of the office manager’s past clients! And even greater good fortune, he happened to check on his credit card that evening and saw the charge. Since he knew my office manager, he gave her a call the next morning. Since we were still within 24 hors, she was able to get that ticket voided right away and have the agency avoid getting stuck with a HUGE chargeback.

She and the agency owner went back to all of that documentation sent in and looked a lot closer at it. On close examination, they realized that everything had been carefully photo-shopped by the fraudster. So yes, requiring the person overseas to fax in copies of the correct IDs and FOP is great and does eliminate low-level scammers, but you are still leaving yourself wide open for the sophisticated operators. To this day I still refuse to do anything for travel originating from out of West Africa and certainly for anything for travel with too of short notice that documentation cannot be mailed to me to verify.

*Please note: These stories represent someone’s personal experience and do not necessarily reflect the experience of Centrav.

Reminder: 5 Red Flags of Potential Fraud

Did you miss our 5 warning signs regarding travel fraud? We’ve included them below for you to help you out when dealing with fraudsters. Always remember: remain alert, and use your resources to prove identity. Most importantly, make sure to get authorization in writing from cardholders before purchase.

Last-minute purchases⁠
Phony website/email⁠
Suspicious phone, address, or cc info⁠
Not concerned with price or schedule⁠
Anxious about payment

Shawna Levet

Shawna is passionate about helping travel agents grow their business and expand their knowledge as travel experts. She has been in the travel industry since 2011, helping agents and travelers alike find the best negotiated airfare and travel coverage to meet their needs.

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