Holiday Scams: Airline ticket discount fraudster in custody in SA

2017-10-13 06:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Photo: iStock

Cape Town - It's that time of year again when we get caught up in the excitement and rush of festive season planning - and in attempts to snatch a good deal, some holidaymakers find themselves in the middle of vacation scams.

Some unlucky holidaymakers were recently duped by Chandra Kumar Yadav (44), who scammed people into buying discounted airline tickets.

He appeared in the Strand Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, 11 October, after he was arrested by the Western Cape Serious Commercial Crime Unit Court of the Hawks on Tuesday, 10 October, for alleged airline ticket discount scam valued at R500 000.

ALSO SEE: Holiday Scams: Top tips for a fraud and worry-free break

According to a statement from the Hawks, Yadav "conspired and won over victims/clients by telling them that he was able to purchase discounted airline tickets on their behalf, in exchange of cash payments". He did this for about eight months, from December 2016 to September 2017. 

"He allegedly used stolen credit cards information to obtain the said tickets at a discounted rate of up to 60%, resulting in the local airlines losing approximately R500 000. Some of the victims even had their tickets cancelled before they could travel," says the Hawks.

In September, a team from the Hawks conducted a search and seizure operation at Yadav’s residence in Gordons Bay, where they seized cellphones, SIM cards and computers which contained information that led to his arrest.

Yadav has been remanded in custody and his case has been postponed to 25 October 2017. "He is facing charges of fraud, forgery, money laundering and Contraventions Of Electronic Communications and Transactions Act." 

SEE: Tourists increasingly targeted in ATM scams in Cape Town

During last year's festive season, South African Airways (SAA) warned customers of scams running on social media, refuting a competition which claimed it is offering free tickets. 

ATM fraud, online holiday scams, cyber attacks and other forms of theft and fraud commonly occur around this part of year, but travellers can avoid finding themselves in distressing situations by being cautious and aware when making transactions and holiday plans.

Here are some tips for fraud and worry-free travels:

Booking tips to avoid being scammed

  • Always try and book accommodation three months in advance or longer to avoid disappointments. This will help you to qualify for discounts and gives you enough time to do the necessary background and security checks. 
  • Use search engines like Google. If you’re worried about a property or suspect that the photographs are fake, simply look it up yourself online.  Look for reviews from other travellers and Google Maps to ensure that the place exists.
  • Use accredited travel websites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com to check reviews and to book accommodation securely. Generally these websites guarantee the booking.
  • Call directly to publicly advertised phone numbers to confirm the booking availability. Even if you get called, rather hang up and call back on the official number.
  • Avoid depositing or transferring money to an individual’s bank account or sending your personal details to their private email address. Rather pay online on the accommodation’s actual website or in person at the venue.
  • Lookout for suspicious behavior. Take notice of bad grammar in emails, foreign phone numbers, or if the owner or property manager is not responding to emails. These can all be warning signs.
  • If you have friends and family that stay close to the place, ask them to go and verify if it is legitimate. 
  • The golden rule to remember is: When it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...

MUST-SEE: Scams, road safety and other travel alerts you need to know about

Travellers must also protect themselves from cyber crime by reaching out to banks, service providers, online or offline merchants, to question where their data is shared. Click here for more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime.

For money safety tips before you leave on holiday, during your trip and post-trip, click here.

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