Have you ever encountered a fake travel agency? Last year, a friend of mine paid a huge amount of cash into an individual’s personal account. He was supposed to be the CEO of the travel agency he was working with, but it was all fake. Both the travel agency and the CEO.
He claimed he could get him a visa to Norway in two weeks but after he made the payment, he didn’t hear from the guy again and there was no office Address. Anyways, I’ll continue this story later in the article.
Nonetheless, it is never a good experience to fall into the hands of a fake travel agency when making plans for your trip. Travelling can be fun and stress-free when you have the services of an authentic travel agency because many people have lost both money and time to fraudsters and imposters claiming to be legal travel agencies. Unsuspecting travelers are preyed upon by such imposters pretending to be a travel service provider.
Most of these fake travel agencies operate without registered names and physical office address. Without a registered name and physical office location, it is close to impossible to track any of these fake travel agencies. If you have dealt with a travel agency that failed to deliver after you have made an upfront payment, then you will know it is a painful experience. For you who haven’t fallen into the hands of such people, don’t wait until you do before taking preventive measures.
There is every possibility that you will lose money to a fake travel agency unless you learn how to identify and detect them. The purpose of this article is to help you identify the traits that are exhibited by most of these fake travel agencies. To avoid falling prey to any of these phony travel agencies, be on the lookout for the following tips.
20 Ways You Can Spot A Fake Travel Agency
1. No Physical Office
A phony travel agency will always shy away from having a physical office location. A genuine travel agency should have an office location with some staff to handle daily business engagements. A fake travel agency will rarely go through the stress of having a physical office building because it makes it easy for people to expose them. So, when next you seek out any travel agency for your travel plans, ensure you know their physical office location and not meet in a restaurant. Having an online presence is not enough; anybody can create a website. When you hear your travel agency telling you they don’t have a physical location, you better stay far away from them.
2. Verifiable accreditation
When dealing with a travel agency, always check to see whether they are accredited or not. Although not all travel agencies have certifications, genuine ones should be a registered member of registered and recognized associations. When you have such knowledge, it assures you that you are dealing with an official travel agency. Dealing with an accredited travel agency is always better because you can tender a report to the recognized association.
You can also ask to see the company registration documents, business licenses, etc. If they become apprehensive or defensive upon your request, then you should beware. Make them show you documents that will give you a sense of security before you path-ways with your money.
Related Article: 10 Top Travel Agencies In Nigeria That Can Get Your Visa Approved
3. Is the deal too good to be true?
Most times, these fake travel agencies present mouth-watering deals to unsuspecting travelers. You must be very observant to identify such “Greek gifts” from these fake travel agencies. If the deal is too good to be true, then you should think twice before going ahead to pay.
These deals draw most travelers because they are very affordable. You see, some travel agencies advertising that they can get you a visa to the Balkans for $200 when your country in Africa. Well, if you fall victim to such deals, then you need to also work on your greed. It is quite obvious that such transactions are impossible and cannot happen, yet you went ahead to pay.
The rule of thumb is, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Check for customer reviews
Every genuine, authentic, and good travel agency should have customer reviews praising and recommending their services. If there is no review at all, then you are likely dealing with a fake travel agency. Always check for recommendations and reviews on their website. The experience of existing customers will tell you almost all you need to know about the travel agency.
5. What is their mode of operation?
The mode of operation of a travel agency will tell you if they are fake or not. For instance, if the travel agency is encouraging you to take shortcuts, then you have to watch it. If they lecture you on how to beat immigration checkpoints, then that is a red flag, and you need to take a step back. When dealing with any travel agency, don’t ever settle for anything that looks or sounds suspicious. No genuine travel agency will be dubious in their dealings.
6. Fake websites
With the many and reliable online travel agencies, fake travel agencies have started to parallel and fake forms of the original websites. They create fake websites and shut them down within months long enough for them to scam unsuspecting travelers. You should stay away from websites that do not have securities on their webpage. When filling your details on any website, ensure that the site is secure and be very careful, not to give information about your credit or debit cards on such websites.
7. Be a diligent reader that pays attention to details
When going through the website of your travel agency, check out all the terms and conditions before paying. Understand what you are paying for before you commit your money to the course. Sometimes, you may have a great trip to your destination but end up with extra charges that you could have avoided.
8. Ensure the agency provides you with facts and details
Always ask for details and facts about your trip from your travel agency. The agency should be able to provide you with all the necessary information about visas, complete itinerary, and the cost of your entire trip. Don’t pay for any travel agency without having all the details available. A fake travel agency will be unwilling to provide you with details about your journey. When you start to notice such behavior, you are most likely in the hands of scammers.
9. Carry out an in-depth research
Before settling for any travel agency, carry out you’re independent about them. Most times, you will get to see trusted and genuine brands among the top searches on Google. Also, you must look them up on social media too. Most of the reputable travel agencies have their social pages verified.
10. Beware of shortcuts, they are never real
When your travel agency starts coaching you on a particular way to deceive immigration officials or go through shortcuts, they are likely planning on ripping you off. If the travel agency is advising you to travel in a particular way when the other way is the most used and generally accepted, it raises questions about the authenticity of the travel agency. When they ask you to you do things through the backdoor, you are most likely in the hands of fraudsters posing as genuine travel agencies.
11. They encourage you to apply for a visa even when you have been refused
This is one of the very easy and simple ways to identify a fake travel agency. They will always urge you to apply for a visa when they are aware that you were refused a visa, and circumstances for the refusal haven’t changed. What they are after is their money, and they don’t care if you are fighting a lost course or not. They will do everything to convince you, even when it is clear that you won’t get the visa.
12. Unverifiable stories, always sound too good to be true because they are not.
These fake agencies will be quick to tell you magical stories of how they have been able to help previous applicants secure their visas. They are always unable to provide you with proof of such stories. All they are after is to get you to trust them with your money. Be very careful when you come across travel agencies with such stories.
13. They refuse to communicate through certain channels
You will find them refusing to communicate with you through emails, SMS, or other channels that can store and retrieve conversations. They do this always to shield themselves from any blowback. Any travel agency with such an attitude is most likely fake and is out to scam unsuspecting customers.
14. Encouraging you to pay for forged documents
Do not fall for this, this is a total red flag when you are dealing with a travel agency. No genuine or authentic travel agency will ask you to pay for the forged document because they have a reputation to protect. A representative of a fake travel agency will care less about reputation and is only interested in making money off unsuspecting travelers.
15. Don’t know anything about your destination
When discussing with your travel agency and they seem not to have heard or know anything about your travel destination, you should advance with caution. If they are genuinely in the travel business as they claim, they should know a thing or two about your destination. Imagine telling your agency that you want to travel to the Caribbean, and they ask, “where is it.” Destination knowledge is a quality all travel agencies have.
16. Insisting you must never contact them but they will contact you
This is a sign you need to back off and walk away from the deal. A genuine representative of a travel agency should be available at all times. You should be able to contact them during business hours and get a response on time. Whenever you hear “don’t call or contact me, I will contact you” from a travel agency representative, it is a sign you might be in the wrong hands.
17. Demands that you pay cash to them
When a travel agency demands you pay cash instead of through credit cards you should watch it. The travel agencies that are reputable accept credit card payments from travelers. A fake travel agency will prefer to accept cash because they know there is virtually no way the payment can be tracked. You need to be smart enough not to fall prey to such a fake organization.
18. The reviews look fake and unreal
This is another way to identify a fake travel agency. They show you bogus reviews, but these reviews don’t look real. They may have reviews and testimonials on their website but how genuine are they. Sometimes, these fake travel agencies pay people to leave a positive review on their website to convince new customers. Before you take the name of an anonymous reviewer, do a little digging to know if the reviewer’s account also reviewed another agency.
19. They insist on doing business only over the phone
There is no problem with speaking with your travel agency over the phone but you must be leery if that is the only means of communication accepted by your travel agency. Without any written contract or an email that you can refer to when things go wrong, there won’t be proof that you did business with them. It will be their word against yours, and there is no headway you can make with that.
20. Hardly listen to what you have to say
Most of these fake travel agencies train their agents on how to convince customers to patronize them. Oftentimes these agents are obsessed with convincing you that they fail to pay attention to what you are telling them. All they care about is telling you how they are the best and can help you get to your destination without hiccups or stress. When you come in contact with such people, let your instincts be your guide.
Conclusion on Spotting a Fake Travel Agency
We have provided you with essential tips on how to identify and avoid fake travel agencies. The problem is that people tend to be carried away with the tempting offers that these fake agencies make them. Always be very careful and observant when dealing with travel agencies and also watch out for the traits as highlighted here. Above all, trust your instincts at all times when dealing with them.