With the influx of millions of travellers who need help with travel plans, reservations, and visa applications travel agents are the most sought after. However, several people have been victims of fraudulent or fake agents and you do not have to fall for extortion and deceivers if you know what to look out for. Hence, you need proper confirmation and recognition before employing the service of a travel agency.
Here’s all you need to know about fake travel agents and how to identify one;
Also Read: List Of Travel Agencies in Nigeria
General functions of travel agencies
A travel agency is responsible for any details regarding your journeys. This begins with advice on what to do and the next step as regards your travel.
A certified travel company or agent will always provide the following major services
- Offer Travel advice
- Help in Visa application
- Travel plans and itineraries sorting
- Evidence of funds and travel intentions
- Airlines ticket reservations
- Summer or vacation plans with discounts when necessary
- Hotel or accommodation reservations
- Updated travel information and requirements
Major accreditations of legal travel agencies in Nigeria
A legal travel agent in Nigeria should have a registered company with any or all of the following;
- Registration With The Corporate Affairs Commission
- National Civil Aviation Authority
- International Air Transport Association
Also, there could be additional certifications, depending on the extent of services to be provided by an agent. The services of an agent extend to ensuring safe travels even after you have boarded a plane. This might even include help with your luggage or cargo.
What is a fake travel agency?
A fake travel agent appears real, but there is something shady about the services they offer. Besides, fake travel agencies profess unrealistic expectations to you without any certified backup or recognition.
However, there are efforts made by members of the public and even the government to tackle fraudulent activities across all sectors of the country.
Indications to help you identify a fake travel agency
Wondering how to find out whether you are employing a legitimate travel medium or not, here are signals that can help you identify one easily;
First, most people love free things or cheap 0ffers known as “awoof” by Nigerians. Very funny, you might be in for fraud if you are in this category. This is because most fake travel agents in Nigeria offer heaven on earth with mouthwatering offers and deals that are not real.
Similarly, when you eventually ask other people who have toured the same country or applied for the same travel documents, you will be told a different story.
Be informed that no matter the travel packages a travel agent is proposing to you, they should never be far from reality. Visa applications, hotel bookings, summer destination packages and many more services they provide, should always be thoroughly investigated from other sources before you weigh your options and conclude reasonably. If it is too good to be true it probably is.
No legal certifications
In Nigeria, there are accreditation standards for travel agencies. This should be on the company’s website or social media sites. Further, an illegal travel agent most times will not be able to prove any form of travel certification or license to practice.
Hence, you need to be careful. Very! Also, when you discover a change in promises made by these travel agents or a twist of conversations especially when you request their legal backing then it is a warning signal that you have just hit a fake agent.
A fake travel agent most times, does not have valid contact information such as official websites or office locations or online recognition. Thus, there are no official means of communication in any way and you have to watch out if they come to you this way.
Moreover, an authorized travel firm should have either a valid online communication channel like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc or a base from which all duties and responsibilities are carried out. This is one of the things that you should be alert for to identify a fake travel agent.
Interestingly, a counterfeit travel agent sometimes will not even have a permanent phone number to call you with. Thus, you might receive calls for unofficial meetings in private settings and this could be done with diverse telephone numbers.
To add to everything, in most cases you will never find an illegal travel agent with a verified website or online recognition. While some of these agents can deceive you into inactive handles or websites, it doesn’t last long as it could change at any moment too.
Public assessment/ Online Reviews
Frankly, this could be all you need to point out a fraudulent travel agent. We often underestimate public views and feel that people are only being judgemental. However, this should not be the case for travel guides. You need all the assessments of their services from the public space whether online or offline.
How do you get this? First, look out for critiques on their pages, and social media comments made by customers on their pages. You can never be able to tell, somewhere hidden from the crowd, you might spot a shady deal.
Also, a certified travel agent should have a company website validated by Google and at least reviews from other websites too. Any appraisal from four to five stars with genuine comments about services rendered is a positive sign.
Incomplete travel packages
In almost all cases, a travel agent should be able to first give you the right travel information and then guide you on how to go about it. Plus, sometimes you even pay the legal travel agents and everything you need for your trip is sorted out.
Therefore, there’s a lot of research you have to carry out personally. Read the contents on the website just like this one and discover all you need for a successful trip or travel documents. This will help you know whether a travel agent is offering substandard or fake deals to you.
For instance, a travel agent that does not give you advice on accommodation or provide help with hotel bookings for your trip is pointing a signal to you that you should not take lightly.
Irregularity of service
This unstable service a fake agent offers is a major indicator. This is because you can not afford to engage an agent who is open today and closed tomorrow. Most fake travel agents are not always actively involved online because sometimes they get banned for illegal activities and will now manoeuvre their way to get to you again.
An original travel company should be directly involved with helping out all the time. This is because of emergencies or the need for full spread across all platforms. This is another sign that it could be a fake travel agent.
Lack of travel knowledge or information
Do you need to remind a travel agent about what you need? No! You should always show up as someone who has no background knowledge and needs travel help, whatever it is. This is even if you know and have your information ahead.
Now, carefully listen to what an agent will offer and spot the fake ones. Shady travel agents will most times ask you to report at specific times especially when you want to enquire about anything. Whereas, there is basic information that should be delivered to you on the spot!
All of these signs are most times visible and you just need to be alert because any tilt in the wrong direction will cost you your own money and time.
Encourage illegal travel routes
With the rise of deportation and illegal immigrants all over different countries, you do not want to add to the number. Therefore, it is important to note that a fake travel agent will want you to boycott the appropriate paths.
This is visible in unprofessional advice to ignore prompting and requirements for your trip. More so, it includes travelling via the wrong routes or bribery for illegal entry into certain countries.
In countries where skilled workers are needed, a fake agent could present unexplainable job offers to you with reasonable pay. Hence, a pointer to fraudulent activities. You need a valid passport and a visa to travel to any country outside Nigeria.
However, only visa-free countries might need you to just have a passport and other valid documents. Then you can either get a visa on entry to the country or electronic travel authorization.
Due to inappropriate operations, a fake travel agent will not communicate important details to you effectively. Asides from the fact that a travel business venture is also for profitable income, there is unusual greed displayed by counterfeits.
A travel agent should have specific opening and closing hours. At this time, all communications whether online or offline can be made. Therefore, calls from travel agents at the wrong hours or without prior notice could be a clue that they are unlawful.
Be informed that this is not always an issue if you have requested to be called at certain times or if there is a need to relate urgent and important information. But, when you are beginning to have doubts about any conversation, check for facts yourself. This is also your responsibility.
Their offers do not align with your facts and inquiry
Whenever you ask for travel information and an agent proposes a different and untraceable offer, do not be quick to accept it.
First, travel agents should be able to provide answers to your travel doubts, and questions and rid your fears not add to them. Next, after thorough research and you do not find any help from an agent, this is a hint that you might be dealing with a fake agent.
Moreover, some counterfeit agents just agree with your suggestions without any additional information or assistance. Immediately you mention either a price or any foreknowledge of an option you have, since they do not even know their left from right, they just concur.
Requesting confidential information and passwords
One of the easiest ways to Though you need to pay for certain services, be informed that you do not need to give private details or account information. Thus, only a fake agent will request personal information that does not relate to your application such as login to your email address, your bank account information etc is a red flag indeed!
In conclusion, you have every right to ask for website sources to check for information and also ask for other means of identification you are familiar with.
How to identify a legal travel agent
Majorly, a legal agent is easily recognised by the following:
- Verified google research on embassy websites to link information you have received from a travel agent and it is real.
- Online reviews and articles that are written by such agents
- A travel agent should have a valid phone number or website, and it should be online for easy access.
- A registered location or trusted website
- Consistent phone number
- Yearly and stable operations
- Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Web sometimes recommend verified travel agencies in your country.
- Answered questions on social media sites from customers who have utilized the service of a travel agent.
- Successful travel services with five-star or four-star reviews
- Up-to-date knowledge and top-notch experiences.
- Current travel content and guides
- Consistent posts on social media and social media
If an agent does not possess all or majority of the items listed above, it could be a fake travel agency.
What to do when you discover a fake travel agent
Mainly, there are three important things to do when you encounter an impostor agent, which are;
Call such agent out publicly
To avoid stories that touch, immediately you get deals or offers from fake travel agents that are unrealistic and appear fraudulent, notify other members of the public instantly.
Stop all forms of communication with such agents immediately
To avoid further deceptions, you need to disengage from receiving further information from a travel agent when you discover that they are illegal.
Report fraudulent activities to law enforcement officers
At the moment, there is significant help from law enforcement agencies or the travel licensing companies listed above that you can report the phoney actions of any agent to.