Beware of travel scams amid Omicron restrictions, warns industry body

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The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata) says travel scams are on the rise thanks to international travel restrictions in the wake of the Omicron variant.

Several holidaymakers have had their international travel plans cancelled or postponed as a result of border closures to African countries.

Now, these travellers are on the hunt for last-minute local holiday deals, and scammers are cashing in on the demand.

Asata said some consumers had contacted them because they booked a holiday package that appeared too good to be true, or were scammed and defrauded by a travel provider.

“We see the level of complaints rise 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 scamsters,” said Asata CEO Otto de Vries.

Take note of these tips before you book anything

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Travel tricksters tend to lure unsuspecting customers by offering too-good-to-be-true airfares and package holiday prices. Check with a reputable travel agent, tour operator or airline before booking.

Make sure the logo is legit

Check the website, advertisement and travel documentation 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.

Shabby marketing

If the advert has blurry, fuzzy logos or low-resolution images on print marketing or travel documentation, its probably a scam. Con artists 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 tool bar to see that the URL begins with “https” rather than “http”.

EFT or nothing

If you are being pressured into paying via EFT only, this actually means you’re paying by cash. Safeguard yourself by paying on credit card so your purchase is protected. 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 used a booking site, watch out for any phishing emails. Emails could be from scammers impersonating famous booking sites, claiming there was an issue with your booking. Never click on suspicious links to provide your banking details.

It’s your holiday, do the research

If the travel brand is unfamiliar, run a Google search for reviews or warnings about the company. If they’ve been involved in fraud before, customers will post their experiences online.

NOW READ: Island holidays: Five destinations South Africans can visit this December

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