Planning your trip can be difficult and the process of looking for the right travel agency to help you out can get excruciating. In the United States alone, thousands of agencies claim to be offering affordable and exciting travel experiences. Unfortunately, by April 2020, a total of $13.4 million had been lost to fraud due to Covid-19, with the top category being travel scams. One reason for the increasing rate of travel frauds is the surfacing of fake travel agencies. Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you deduce whether a travel agency is legitimate or not.
Cheap Packages - Too Good To Be True
When you come across a travel package that offers surprisingly low prices, don’t jump in! Such packages have a high possibility of being offered by fake agencies. It is essential to understand that when it comes to travelling, you get what you pay for. It is very rare for high-rated travel agencies to offer lavish travel experiences at very cheap rates, especially in prime locations and in peak travel months.
Look Out For Official Websites
Setting up a Facebook or Instagram page for your business is not a difficult task in this generation. Travelers need to be on the look-out for official email addresses, URLs and domain names when booking hotels and paying for tickets online. Usually, average or vulnerable websites have a domain name that looks something like “www.amazonn.com”. On the other hand, encrypted websites of legitimate travel agents may have an HTTPS domain title that looks something like “https://businessnamehere.com.ph/”. These encrypted domain name titles have a far more secure system, especially when it comes to making online payments.
To check the legitimacy of a business in an attempt to avoid travel agency scams, request to have a look at their permit to trade and business registration. Genuine agencies rarely mind showing-off their customer experiences and licenses on websites and social media pages. Additionally, when visiting their physical offices (assuming they have one), check if their business registration and licensing details are prominently displayed.
Check if they are Backed Up by Banks
Real travel agencies prefer to have their own bank details through their business accounts registered under the company’s name. If an agency requires your personal account details to set you up, beware! As banks require official documents to open corporate accounts, it is wiser to go for agencies that provide you with authentic business account details to avoid any monetary frauds from happening.
Secure Your Payments
Fake travel agencies are on the look-out for personal details to pursue their illicit motives. To address this problem, a secure method for accepting digital payments is required. If you are being asked about sensitive account details over the phone, realise this as a red flag. Normally, travel agencies ask their customers to come in-person to their established offices to have their card swiped for finalising bookings. Another easier option that authentic travel agencies provide for you is to make payments via highly encrypted third-party firms like PayPal International.
In order to overcome all such challenges related to planning your trip through agencies, take a look at the following solutions.
Combating Travel Industry Scams
Much like Covid-19, fraudsters are rampant. Frauds in the travel industry alone cost companies approximately $10 billion each year. One of the most devastating schemes that fraudsters go for are travel agency scams, in which agents either set up fake websites to phish customers or purchase airline tickets using stolen credit card details and resell them on the black market. These scammers act like viruses, feeding off vulnerable customers. A few suggestions for tackling scams at the hands of travel agencies include the following:
Use trustworthy payment methods, like ApplePay or PayPal
Be skeptical in making payments and booking accommodation or flights through online websites
View online reviews made on official websites and social media accounts by previous customers
Assess license and permits thoroughly before picking an agency
Choose an agency that is in compliance with KYC and AML regulations and not present on any criminal watchlist