Aida and her family had planned a vacation in Europe. She then engaged a travel agency that a friend recommended. After making the payment, Aida received her tickets from the travel agency.
She was informed that she and her family had to take their flight from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). They travelled all the way from their home in the north of Peninsular Malaysia.
Upon arrival at the airport check-in counter, she was taken by surprise when the officer said their names were on the list but no payment had been made.
Turns out that Aida was not the only one to have been duped by the travel agency. Several other families were also stranded at the airport for the same reason.
The National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) has received a lot of such complaints in the past and the number of such complaints continues to rise steadily.
In 2016, 3,458 complaints were filed. In 2017, the number of complaints increased to 3,590, with losses amounting to millions of ringgit.
The common complaints that NCCC received were related to last-minute cancellations, delays in the refund of complainants’ money, promises not fulfilled and the offered accommodation being different from the one initially agreed.
Based on our observations, these scammers advertise on social media and websites.
The website usually looks genuine and is professionally handled by the scammers. It is hard for one to determine whether the company is a legitimate one.
It is important, before engaging a travel agency, to do some research and find out whether it has a licence to operate.
This information is usually found on the tourism ministry website. However, there have also been cases of licenced companies running away with customers’ money.
Without any delay, the consumer must lodge a police report. The authorities play a big role in ensuring strict action is taken against such companies.
Do thorough research to ensure the company is legitimate, check that the website offers full contact details, such as a landline phone number, postal address and any other information that would make it easy for you to contact them should anything go wrong.
Exercise caution if the quoted price is too low. As the old adage goes: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Shabana Naseer is the senior manager, legal and policy, National Consumer Complaints Centre.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.