The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) has warned travellers to be aware of any travel scams this summer holiday.
ASATA said many travellers contacted them after their plans went amiss after taking deals "too good to be true" or were scammed and defrauded by a travel provider.
ASATA CEO Otto de Vries said the level of complaints rises in the run-up to school holidays.
"With many travellers now ‘panic buying’ to save their December break, it is more important than ever to be on the lookout for scams,” he said.
National director at Mazars Christo Snyman said many people commit fraud during peak travel seasons.
"It is vital that we all take the time to increase our awareness of fraud tactics and to know which warning signs to look for. As a first rule of thumb, it is imperative that the travel agency you use is a member of ASATA," De Vries added.
Here are some additional tips:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Alarm bells should go off if your holiday is a real steal. Travel tricksters tend to hook unsuspecting customers by offering airfares and package holiday prices that are too good to be true. Check with a reputable travel agent, tour operator or airline what the ‘normal’ price for the air ticket or holiday would be.
Make sure the logo is legit
Peruse the website, advertisement and travel documentation and search for the ASATA stamp of credibility. "ASATA members comply with a code of conduct and constitution that requires them to abide by the laws of the land and prove that they are legitimate travel businesses that protect the interests of their customers," said De Vries.
Be cautious if you see blurry, fuzzy logos or low-resolution images on print marketing collateral or travel documentation. Travel con artists will sometimes copy and paste extracts from genuine travel companies to make it seem as if their offer is legitimate. "Ensure that you are on a secure website and not a ‘spoof’ site by clicking on the security icon on your browser toolbar to see that the URL begins with https rather than http. And, always check with ASATA whether the company is a bona fide travel company that is accredited," she said.
If you’re pressured into paying via EFT only, this actually means you’re paying by cash. "Safeguard yourself by paying on a credit card so your purchase is protected," added De Vries. "If you pay by EFT, you will struggle to get your funds reimbursed if the supplier is found to have committed travel fraud."
Something smells phishy
If you booked using a booking site, watch out for any phishing emails. Emails could be from scammers impersonating famous booking sites, claiming an issue with your booking. Never click on suspicious links to provide your banking details.
Try googling it to see if there are any reviews or warnings about the company. If they’ve been involved in fraud before, you may find that other customers have posted their experiences online.
Travel scammers work around the clock and often tend to find you first, typically revealing themselves around the main holiday seasons.
“Always trust your intuition. And when in doubt, consult an ASATA travel agent,” said De Vries.