'Fake' travel agency scams group of 80 people out of long-awaited Thailand holiday

Yolanda Louw, 62, and in pink Sharon Lategan, 64. picture supplied

Yolanda Louw, 62, and in pink Sharon Lategan, 64. picture supplied

Published Jun 24, 2024


Cape Town - A group of pensioners who paid R26 000 each for 14 nights in Thailand only to be left high and dry on the eve of their departure say they’ve been scammed and want their money back.

The 80 would-be travellers were expected to leave on June 20, but were informed a week prior that their long-awaited tour was cancelled without refund.

Sharon Lategan, 64, from Strand, said that in her area, they were a group of 10 people who each paid R26 000 to Prudence November from “Angelique’s Tours”.

“We know the woman who was the organiser, someone saw the flyer on her WhatsApp status last year, but prior to this we heard about it from our friends.

Flyer for 14 nights in Thailand.

“She would organise successful boat trips to Namibia and people would come back impressed. We enquired and she explained to us and sent banking details,” Lategan said.

“In May 2023, we sent a deposit of R5 000 and we had to be done with our payment by December last year.

“We found out there were about 77 people who booked, some booked for 10 people and paid more than R100 000 to Prudence and the estimate for everyone was more than R2 million.”

She said everything seemed on track when they received their itinerary in February.

“We exploded with excitement and because this is a place you can go, nice hotels, 3 and 4-star hotels. I Googled all of them, so the places were real. We were going to travel from Cape Town to Doha [Qatar] and then Phuket.

“It seemed legit, we didn’t think for one moment that something was not right. But then time went on and we started asking for our tickets and we were told we were going to get our tickets in June.

“I asked for a booking reference that I was going to take to my bank so I could use my credit card overseas and that was never sent to me.

“We again asked on June 8 for the tickets. We began to worry when we didn’t get the flight details.”

Lategan said that they asked if they could pack as they neared the departure date.

“Prudence told us we could pack and that we were going to Thailand. I asked again if we were going and she reassured me.

“A couple from Kimberley told her they had booked a bus and were going to Johannesburg on June 16.

“She didn’t tell them not to book, she let them go there.

“They got on the bus and on Monday they were there waiting for us. They went back home on Saturday, devastated.”

The group received confirmation that they were not going to Thailand last Monday.

“We called a meeting with Prudence and then suddenly there was another person who was from another travel agency, which was odd because she never mentioned any of this to us,” said Lategan.

“At the meeting, someone who said she was a lawyer said that we are not going to Thailand, nor are we getting our money back.

“And that is when we decided to go to the police and open a case because we want our money back and the person who we dealt with was Prudence and no one else.

“We have proof and invoices from Prudence. We want her to give us what she promised, we know that we are not going to Thailand so she must give our money back. We are 60-plus, we can’t wait for next year.”

Another disappointed traveller, Yolanda Louw, said ever since the failed trip, she has been stressed out.

“I really wanted to go, it would have been my first time overseas and this was quite disappointing.

“My son kept calling to find out if I was fine and even took me to a comedy show so I could forget that we were scammed.”

November told the Cape Argus she was “not going to speak to the media about the tour”.

“At the moment everything is with the lawyer and the police and that’s it. Justice will prevail and everything will come to the fore. They know I don’t have the money and I showed them the proof. I understand that they are frustrated, I’m frustrated too.”

Police spokesperson Wesley Twigg said they registered a fraud case.

“According to reports, the complainant paid money to agents to organise a tour. No arrests have been made yet. The investigation continues,” said Twigg.