Almost had $1200 stolen


I am internet savvy. I am very cautious about online transactions
I am someone others contact when they are checking on spam or online rip offs....
and I almost got stung for $1200!

What stopped me? Some red flags that I think through before booking on-line. I recommend that everyone needs to consider these red flags.

Recently, while on my Facebook, up popped the advertisement shown here on the right. Its Facebook so its got to be safe. Right?
I clicked the link and got the website of Cheaper-Flights.net.au (see below)

Red Flag #1 Unknown Supplier

I have never heard of Cheaper-Flights but this is not unusual on the internet so I took it as an orange flag.

I was interested in a good fare to Hong Kong and curious to see what they could do so I completed their on-line booking form.  I got an immediate response which impressed me. They then quoted a fare of $1199 for Premium Economy to Hong Kong in peak season.

Red Flag #2 Deal Too Good to Be True
 If the deal is too good to be true, it will be. Compare any deal you are offered with 2 or 3 other agencies. An agent offering over 50% off an international flight is way beyond the realm of possibility. In this case, the fare while Cheaper flights quoted me $1199 for Premium Economy from Melbourne to Hong Kong, everyone else was around $4000 with some making it $2700. So I was now very suspicious.



Red Flag #3 Agent Sells Without Your Permission 

The next thing I knew was that I receieved confirmation of my booking, an E-ticket and a Travel insurance Policy in my name for the flight with a cheery email asking me to book again in the future. I had not authorised a booking.

When I checked with Qantas, the booking confirmation number was genuine.  Qantas advised me the fare had been booked in my name and paid for by Credit Card not through a travel agency. It was not my Credit Card!



Red Flag #4: Seller wants less money than ticket worth

The fare on the ticket was $2700 but Cheaper-Flights wanted me to pay only $1199 by bank transfer to an online bank account. Sometimes the ticket price will be different to what you pay but again not by that much! So now, I knew this was very likely to be a potential scam.  The ticket will probably have been paid for by a stolen credit card. Once the transaction is reported, the ticket will be cancelled and a luckless traveller will find out days or hours before or worse at the check in counter, that they have a false ticket.  This is why I never buy tickets second hand on Craigs List, Gumtree or E-Bay.



Red Flag #5: No Real World Details
Looking at the confirmation email, there was no address or phone number. A legitimate company would have them. Interestingly on the actual booking at Qantas was a phone number. I rang the number and it was not connected. Now I knew the booking was false. To be sure, I emailed Cheaper-Tickets complimenting them on their swift service and asking for their Company Registration Numbers. They quickly replied.



Red Flag #6 No official Registration

Cheaper-Flights was using the Company registration of another Travel Agency. Plus they were not registered with the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA). Always check to see if your Travel Agency is registered: 
  • Canada: The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA)
  • Singapore: National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS)
  • South Africa: Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA)
  • Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ)
  • UK: Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA
  • USA:   American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)

Red Flag #7: Website "Faulty"

Now I knew Cheaper Flights.net,au was a scam. I had a closer look at their website:
  • The website was not complete
  • 75% of the links did not go anywhere 
  • the company name was different in different places (you would think they would get that right)
  • there were no testimonies from customers
  • the name of Jetstar, a major Australian airline was misspelt
  • there were strange phrasings. eg This is a predominantly new business measure, but one which offers a secure customer peace of mind.  
  • the actual agent's name on the website was different to that of the agent on the emails
  • there was no ownership structure or information on the site
  • there was no phone number or address
At this point, I contacted Qantas, the Travel Agents Association, the Scamwatch authority in my country and the travel agency that was being falsely linked to this company through the Company Registration Number that was being used. It seems a lot of people have been dealing with cheaper-flights. I didn't lose any money but how many will have?  Imagine rocking up to the airport and finding your business or holiday trip is not going to happen because your tickets do not exist. Don't let it be you. Bookmark my red flags!


Check out Legitimate online travel agencies here. Please add your comments below!




9 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I thought it looked suspicious but had no idea of finding out exactly.


  2. Anonymous Says:

    I am interested how you managed to get your money back off them.
    Rob.


  3. Steve_J_23 Says:

    Well spotted. I'm glad you weren't scammed like that, it *does* pay to be vigilant. :-)


  4. @Rob...I never handed any money over. If I had, I would never have seen it again.


  5. DJ Cronin Says:

    A great warning to us all Martin! thanks for sharing. A blog worth sharing too!


  6. Anonymous Says:

    I too saw the Cheaper-Flights advertisement on Facebook. I got a quote from them for a recent domestic flight ticket which I had already purchased and it turned out to be $600 cheaper than what I had paid which like you said is too good to be true. So I emailed them again asking them how I can pay for the ticket and the only form of payment accepted is direct bank deposit. The red flag immediately went on. How can a legitimate travel agency not accept credit card payment? Even my local corner store in a small country town accepts credit card payment. The other red flag was that when I asked them about departure and arrival time they just told me to go to Qantas website and check it myself, that was so unprofessional. So I thought I would google it and see what comes up. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  7. Anonymous Says:

    It's now in the news :)

    http://www.news.com.au/travel/news/warning-over-cheap-airline-tickets/story-e6frfq80-1225946070351


  8. Their website was taken down today


  9. Hi guys....we had a role in this!!!!!! How did they find put about the ABN????? I found that out and told Best Flights who told WA Consmers

    Check out:

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/warning-issued-over-cheap-flights-website-20101030-177vz.html

    onsumers are being warned about a flights website that is offering airline tickets that are up to 50 per cent lower than market rates.

    Western Australia Consumer Protection has raised the alarm about the site cheaper-flights.com.au which advertises via social media.

    Consumer Protection commissioner Anne Driscoll said investigations were continuing but said she wanted to warn consumers as early as possible.

    Advertisement: Story continues below
    She said a legitimate WA company which sells flights contacted the watchdog to report cheaper-flights.com.au was wrongly quoting its ABN.

    "We have discovered that this site is operating out of Eastern Europe and that emails which they send to customers emanate from the United States," she said.

    She said consumers were warned to defer making bookings on cheaper-flights.com.au until further notice and that they should not reveal any bank or credit card details to it.

    She said consumers in doubt about a travel booking could contact it to check on the details of the agent they were dealing with.

    Consumer Protection would also like to speak to consumers who may have had troublesome dealings with cheaper-flights.com.au or any related travel websites.


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