Beware the fraudsters!

The ugly face of fraud continues to rear its head from time to time in the travel industry and this time it appears to be in the form of a host of scammers posing as staff from international offices of South African corporates contacting their respective TMCs for travel arrangements.

Concerning is how these fraudsters know which TMCs are linked to the corporates they are pretending to work for, but there are many other examples of fraud that can hit your agency, no matter what size, or how vigilant you remain.

Never fear though. There are definitely some red flags you should be watching out for:


Know your client

Agents report receiving emails and telephone calls from unknown persons requesting airline tickets and using credit cards as the form of payment.

Mostly, the email sender or caller requests tickets for someone other than himself. They identify themselves as a large corporation wanting to establish a corporate account with you.

Beware of departure and destination

Fraudsters tend to opt for a departure airport that is not local to the travel agency or is an international departure. Destinations will often include high-risk airports such as Accra, Lagos, Abidjan or even Sao Paulo.

When it comes to domestic-only itineraries, the caller will often use a story to entice you to want to provide the service (i.e., grandchild just born, death in the family, etc.).

Timing is everything

Requests for immediate travel or travel within a few days of the reservation from new customers should always raise a Red Flag and agents need to be careful about issuing tickets for these types of bookings.

Don’t trust jargon

Double-check customers who use travel agency lingo like “JNB” rather than Johannesburg in their emails rather than the name of the city.

When price is not an issue

Fraudsters are usually quite casual about price of the flights, no matter how exorbitant, or about the price of the service fee.

Free e-mail addresses

Don’t trust travel demands made from a free, web-based, email, address, which is also often not traceable. Often when dealing with demands from web-based e-mail addresses, the name on the e-mail address is totally different from the name signed at the end of the e-mail.


Scammers tend to use poor English. Their e-mails are often badly written with numerous spelling mistakes and tend to be short and to the point.

It’s all in the name

Fraudsters often create email addresses similar to legitimate corporations and dupe agency staff into believing they work at the corporation.  As an example, fraudsters can create an email address like, while the proper corporate client address is to make the agent believe they’re dealing with legitimate employees.

Check the card

Most fraudulent customers will opt for 3rd party credit cards, and will rarely be the actual cardholder. The same card will also be used for different passengers and routings.