I am very internet savvy. I am very cautious about online transactions 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 you need to consider these red flags whenever you book online. While on my Facebook, up popped the advertisement shown here. I clicked the link and got the website of Cheaper-Flights.net.au
Red Flag #1 Unknown Supplier
I had 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 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 two or three other agencies. An agent offering over 50% off an international flight is way beyond the realm of possibility.
In this case, Cheaper flights quoted me $1199 for Premium Economy from Melbourne to Hong Kong. Every other agent was offerring a fare between $2700 and $4000. I was now very suspicious.
Red Flag #3 Agent Sells Without Your Permission
The next thing I knew was that I received a cheery email with confirmation of my booking, an E-ticket and a Travel insurance Policy in my name for the flight. I had not authorised the booking.
No travel agent will proceed with any deal without the permission of the customer. This can mean tense moments for an agent as they watch seats selling fast and their customer has not contacted them to give that permission.
Red Flag #4: Seller wants less money than ticket worth
When I checked with Qantas, I found that the booking confirmation number was genuine. Qantas advised me the fare had been booked in my name and paid for by Credit Card. It was not my Credit Card, however. 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.
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 a scam.
Red Flag #5: No Real World Details:
Looking at the confirmation email, there was no address or phone number listed. A legitimate company would have them.
Interestingly on the actual booking at Qantas was a phone number. I rang the number and found 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 with the requested information.
Red Flag #6 No official Registration
Cheaper-Flights was using the Company registration of another Travel Agency. Cheaper flights 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)
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!