Scammer alert: holiday dream dashed for a trip to Maldives that never was

Published Oct 6, 2023


With the holiday season upon us, South Africans have been warned against falling for online travel agents and scammers who promise you a dream holiday of your lifetime only to disappear once they have collected money from you.

Early this year, Nomathamsanqa Buthelezi (not her real name) was scammed of over R52 000 of her savings after a friend recommended an Instagram-based travel agent by the name of Levin Mzimkhulu (28), of Levin Travel Agency.

According to Buthelezi, it turned out that Mzimkhulu, who is not even South African, is trading as Levin Travel via Company And Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC).

However, it transpired Ishumael Ndlovu and his co-business partner, Annah Ndlovu, are the two directors within the company. It’s unclear whether he owns Levin Travel, as he is not listed as one of the directors.

The agreement was to pay for the trip of three people to Maldives in tranches until the last instalment due in end of August.

“The idea was to pay in tranches from January to secure the accommodation and travel expenses. He said the last payment should be 30 days before the date of travelling. I have been paying since then, with the last payment due in August as we were meant to travel on 23 September,” she said.

Buthelezi said even though she suspected that this agent was not legit, she somehow continued paying for the trip, because he would send confirmation of the accommodation via email from the hotel. Little did she know that the reservation was fake.

She said the agent always disappeared and was unreachable during the month and he only made contact towards the end of the month.

“There were always signals and even when we met. I would ask him why he always communicated at the end of the month. I started panicking when he was unreachable via WhatsApp. Then he responded four days later with fake flight details and accommodation details which were not clear.

“We had to call the accommodation in Maldives, and we were told they did not have our details with them,” she said, adding that she knew from that day they were victims of a scam.

Buthelezi has since opened a case of fraud with the Roodepoort police station after promises of repayment were not successful.

According to, online scammers are so advanced that they are able to create a legitimate fake online travel agency.

Scammers create authentic-looking booking sites using images of beautiful travel destinations taken off the internet. Sometimes these fake travel agencies become live for a month and a new one is created to scam more unsuspecting would-be holidaymakers.

“To avoid this scam, only book through reputable agencies that have been around for some time, chat to friends and family and look for online reviews,” said Gateway.

Buthelezi, who is reeling following this ordeal, has warned people to avoid using social media to make holiday arrangements. She said the reason she was sharing her ordeal was to warn other people about online scammers.

“Anyone can be scammed, whether educated or not. For some reason scammers have a silver tongue and are manipulative. I just want him to be arrested. Our economy isn’t doing well right now and people just want to make easy cash from our hard-earned cash. It must stop,” she said.

"People must be careful of using social media for their holiday arrangements. Social media isn’t a real world; people can sell you a dream. To this day, we are still waiting for our refund. He is nowhere to be found. Now the question is how many other people has he scammed?" she said.

It appear that Buthelezi is not the first victim to be scammed by Mzimkhulu. In August, a frustrated victim going by the name of Mampho T wrote on Hellopeter. “This guy from Levin Travel ran away with my money, he is now not answering my calls and WhatsApp… All I paid is R5 570 for a weekend away in Harties.

“He confirmed bookings and emailed me the confirmation. On arrival at the accommodation, I was told we had a booking, but we still need to settle the full amount. Levin Travel, Ishmael or whatever your name is, you will not get away with whatever you are busy with,” warned Mpho.

Attempts to get comment from Mzimkhulu via calls, WhatsApp messages and email were not successful at the time of going print.