Online SCAMMERS and CON MEN threaten tourism businesses.

Online SCAMMERS and CON MEN threaten tourism businesses.

Multiple industry sources report that tourism companies’ business email addresses are being hacked and/or recreated. The con men hijack communication with clients pretending to be yourself and divert intended payments to their own accounts. I know several companies that have lost thousands to these scammers as well as clients arriving at airports to only then realize they had been conned. Others have only been lucky to get wind of it before they and their clients lose money. This is an evolving situation and I don’t know what we can do to stop it besides spreading the word, being on the lookout and working as a united front at the highest levels to counter this vice which has the potential to immensely hurt our businesses. If payment is directed to a registered bank in Uganda, South Africa or any other country for example, we should work together as an industry to track the culprits. Clients and agents should also be encouraged to be extra cautious for even ‘small issues’ like when the email address domain tag suddenly changing from .com to .net or .org, when cc’s are dropped, when the ‘personality’ of the conversation changes, when the asking party cannot deal with other aspects appertaining to the tour and when banking details are given in the body of an email; always only pay pay against an official invoice on company letter head and to the bank account details featured in the supplied official invoice; Tour Operators should also suspend the practice of asking tour consultants to step back for accountants follow up payments because this break might be exploitable. It is also safer to ensure your bank account is in your official known company name. It has been suggested that it is better to work off your MS Outlook email platform where you also have an auto-signature and identity instead of working on the browser and to maintain the same email communication thread with full history. Do also stay engaged with your clients; a simple follow up email is good practice and could alert and raise a red-flag to a client who is about to be taken for a ride. And always ask for money using a fully detailed official invoice not email or skype. Scammers are also contacting tour operators pretending to be a potential overseas agent and asking for your authentication documents in order to give you business but they only want to then use those against you to your clients. Anyway this is all a sad situation which we can’t afford be passive about although no-one should be alarmed; any other comments are welcome.

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