Miles and points may not be the only reason to avoid discount travel brokers online. In a precautionary tale from Australia, it appears that not everything on the Internet is as it seems.
According to Rebecca Urban of the Australian Press, the Web site of online travel agency New Flights Limited appeared legitimate. Claiming to be a seller of discount air fares since 2003, the company quoted an Australian Business Number and listed its head office in Sydney’s Bondi Beach.
Diane Willis, a medical receptionist from Perth, was pleased to pay just $770 for a flight package that would take her to Melbourne for a conference and then on to Brisbane for a week’s vacation. But then she learned that she had been sold tickets that had been illegally purchased using stolen credit cards.
Authorities have warned consumers to be wary of bogus Web sites offering discount travel after several people were stung by the operation. An investigation revealed that the perpetrators were based in the U.S.
They were using www.newflights.net to offload tickets bought using stolen credit cards. The site has since been shut down.
The scam was exposed when a colleague of Willis discovered that New Flights had booked six tickets in her name. She contacted Qantas and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and checks on the company revealed its Australian Business Number and address to be fake.
Willis said her flights were cancelled without reimbursement. She had to pay almost $1,000 for new tickets.
Delia Rickard, deputy executive director of consumer protection at ASIC, said there was growing professionalism among Internet scammers.
Rickard urged consumers to check that their travel provider was registered before booking tickets. “Travelers today are accustomed to cheap Internet deals, frequent flyer schemes and budget airlines,” she said. “In light of this, consumers need to be aware of fake companies advertising on the Internet.”