Don’t be taken for a ride when book­ing a hol­i­day

Post - - NEWS - NA­DIA KHAN

HOL­I­DAY mak­ers were left fum­ing af­ter they learnt that a so­cial me­dia post ad­ver­tis­ing five-star ac­com­mo­da­tion in Bal­lito from R750 a night was al­legedly a scam.

Anne Goven­der, 33, of Phoenix, had planned a week­end get­away with her hus­band, two chil­dren and rel­a­tives for March and paid a R700 de­posit, only to learn she had been scammed.

“I saw the post on the Phoenix Clas­si­fieds page on Face­book and was drawn to the pho­to­graphs and the rea­son­able price. I called the ad­ver­tised num­ber but there was no re­sponse, so I sent a What­sApp mes­sage. The man re­sponded say­ing he was a pas­tor and was busy. He promised to call me later but con­tin­ued to mes­sage me.

“To com­plete the book­ing, he for­warded an ap­pli­ca­tion form on a Seabreeze Hol­i­day Lettings let­ter­head. It had the ac­com­mo­da­tion’s ad­dress, an email ad­dress and the con­tact num­bers. It looked le­git­i­mate and I made an EFT pay­ment the same day.”

Fake agents

Shortly there­after, she learnt about the on­line scam and came across an ar­ti­cle cau­tion­ing peo­ple about fake let­ting agents.

The hol­i­day ad­vert she had seen on Face­book was sub­se­quently re­moved and her calls to the man went unan­swered.

“How­ever, he re­sponded to my mes­sages and sent an af­fi­davit, which stated he was the owner of the ad­dress and would re­turn my money.”

She has been wait­ing two weeks and her R700 de­posit was not re­funded. This prompted her to open a fraud case.

Another hol­i­day-seeker, who de­clined to be named, paid R1 400 for a week­end get­away to Bal­lito, al­legedly with the same per­son, only to learn it was a pri­vate res­i­den­tial ad­dress.

The 36-year-old mother of two, of New­lands West, said the man had promised to meet her and her hus­band at a mall to re­solve the prob­lem.

Hours had passed and the cou­ple, who did not want to dis­ap­point their chil­dren, was left with no choice but to seek al­ter­nate ac­com­mo­da­tion. This set them back R3 600.

She said the man mes­saged that evening and claimed he had to re­turn home as his wife was in­volved in ac­ci­dent.

“He said he would re­im­burse us, and give us R1 000 more for the in­con­ve­nience. But to date, noth­ing has been de­posited into our bank­ing ac­count. We hope he is nabbed and our money re­turned.”

The prop­erty’s owner said she had around 10 fam­i­lies ar­rive at her doorstep over a week­end.

Up­set

“Some of them were up­set. The man had told them his wife would let them in and they as­sumed it was me. Luck­ily our se­cu­rity had things un­der con­trol.”

One fam­ily, she said, had trav­elled from Jo­han­nes­burg af­ter rent­ing out the ac­com­mo­da­tion for a week.

“This has been my home for seven years. This man is send­ing out a fraud­u­lent af­fi­davit stat­ing my home be­longs to him. That’s why I opened a case against him.”

Po­lice spokesper­son Cap­tain Nqo­bile Gwala said a case of fraud is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

The man could not be reached for com­ment on the num­ber he pro­vided to both women.

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Tourism Busi­ness Coun­cil of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshiv­hengwa, said that be­fore mak­ing a book­ing, hol­i­day mak­ers must check a com­pany’s cred­i­bil­ity. “First, any le­git­i­mate hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion would have a web­site, where you can view the ho­tel, bed and break­fast or a guest house. Also check for a busi­ness regis­tra­tion num­ber.

“You also need to check that they are af­fil­i­ated to a lo­cal tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion or a clus­ter of ac­com­mo­da­tion, such as the Dur­ban tourism board, a guest house as­so­ci­a­tion or the Fed­er­ated Hospi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa, to name a few. Don’t be fooled by the pic­tures as any­one can find nice-look­ing pic­tures off the in­ter­net. Make sure to do all your qual­ity checks.”

PIC­TURE: SUP­PLIED

A screen shot of one the many so­cial me­dia posts ad­ver­tis­ing the ‘hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion’ at R750 per night.

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