Help! I’ve been scammed!

You’ve memorised all the red flags for fraud, you’ve heeded the warning signs, and still you got scammed. Unfortunately it happens. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly inventive and even the best prepared travel agent can fall into their trap.

What should you do now? Take a deep breath and follow these steps to minimise the damage.

Tell your colleagues

If you found out you’ve been defrauded, it is important to take immediate action to limit the damages and try and recover as much funds as possible.

Alert your colleagues and/or office manager about what has happened. Firstly, they will give you much-needed support and advice and secondly, they should be aware that the company has been targeted to avoid making any further bookings for the fraudster.

In the latest travel scam that occurred, fraudsters targeted the travel agent’s corporate accounts. If this is the case, check with your corporate account and alert them as well of the suspicious transactions.

Also make contact with ASATA. They will be able to assist with advice and support. They will also be able to alert the travel industry about the syndicate or fraudster.

Phone the bank

After you’ve alerted your colleagues, immediately contact the bank and ask for the fraud department. Most banks and credit card companies have specific processes in place to report fraud. They’ll assist you to stop the transaction.

Try to be as specific as possible and provide the bank with all the details you have. Pass on card details, addresses, names and all information you may have on the fraudster.

Contact the airline

Make contact with the airline and any other service providers to cancel all air tickets, hotel reservations and/or car rental bookings. Ask the airline to blacklist future tickets for travel for the fraudster.

If the fraudster is to travel the same day, try to contact the specific airline at the airport and speak to an official to advise that a fraudulent transaction has taken place.  Give them the airline ticket details, so that they can stop the passenger from travelling.

Appoint a forensic investigator

For any further action, it is a good idea to appoint a forensic investigator to assist you. Make sure you hire an accredited forensic investigator who is also a certified fraud examiner.

When appointing an investigator, it is also important to make sure he/she has an intricate knowledge of the travel industry, as well as a good working relationship with the SAPS. The police are often unaware of the details associated with travel booking processes and it can be difficult to explain this to them. A forensic investigator who understands both the travel industry and the SAPS can be worth his weight in gold in situations like this.

A trustworthy practitioner will provide you with:

  • An upfront quote
  • A summary of the amount of hours he/she will spend on the case
  • A detailed plan of the action he/she is planning to undertake to recover your funds and mitigate any further risk

A good place to start when looking for an investigator is the Institute of Commercial Forensic Practitioners (ICFP).

Be wary of private investigators, who charge outrageous upfront deposits.

Sign an affidavit

Together with the Forensic or Fraud Investigator, set out a signed affidavit with all the details of all the parties included. The Investigator will assist you in building a strong Prima Facie case by obtaining statements or affidavits from the relevant parties and gathering the relevant information, which will be annexed to the affidavit as proof and evidence. He/she will make sure it is done thoroughly to ensure a good strong case.

Report the case to the police

The investigator will then assist in registering a case docket with the relevant police station. It is imperative to share as much details of the fraudster as possible i.e clear and confirmed copy of passport or I.D, hand written note for handwriting analysis and full contact details. This will be used to trace the alleged fraudster.

Whatever you do: stay safe!

Although it is better to have as much information as possible on the fraudster, always first consider your safety and that of your staff. Don’t ask the fraudster to come into the office in an attempt to obtain more information from him/her. Don’t get involved in any way with the fraudster without the help of the police!

If you’re faced with the fraudster

If you are making a booking for a client who is either in the office or on the phone, and you suspect something is wrong, don’t make the transaction. Instead, call your bank and ask for a CODE 10 authorisation. If possible keep the client’s credit card in your possession. You will be asked a series of yes/no questions that will reveal to the bank that you think you’re dealing with a fraudster but won’t raise suspicion for the client sitting in front of you that you’re ringing the alarm bell.