In our everyday business life our agents pick up the phone to negotiate fares for our clients.  In most cases we have a non-public number that we call to speak to the carrier’s desk that specifically handles Group Travel.  There are a few rare carriers that have the same number for “John Q. Public” as they do for those of us employed in the industry. And that is where the “Tale of The Scammer” begins.

On December 16, 2022, I was sitting at my desk working.  It was a typical Friday, reminders sent out to clients for deadlines due, finishing up quotes, quoting those quotes and making lists for the next week.  It was busy. And too on a day when the rest of the world was celebrating Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, I was busy and dialing the phone while looking at my computer.  I am usually good at it, but on this day, I hit the 2 instead of a 5 for the beginning number of the carrier’s last four digits. It sounded like the carrier’s greeting, so I hit 2 and a kind and quiet voice came on the line.

“Good afternoon, this is ______________ Air, my name is __________, how may I assist.” I began with my request, giving him the specific flights that I needed.  He offered me those flights on the carrier but then in turn offered me another carrier that had similar times, but a shorter layover.  That was not the norm, not ever.  So I pressed him a bit.  I asked what airline I was calling and he said the carrier name that I thought I had called.  I asked him again and he insisted I was talking to the carrier.  I knew I wasn’t, so I pressed in further and asked why he was offering me a competing carrier.  He said, it was a part of his service.  I then said, this is not the way this is normally handled and he was growing a bit frustrated with me, and said I had been transferred over to him. Finally, after much interrogation, he admitted he was a consolidator and selling discounted airfare on behalf of “multiple carriers.” I looked at my phone and realized this misdial, and told him so.  I hung up and redialed the carrier I was supposed to be calling and told them what had happened.

The agent I spoke with told me that they had gotten multiple calls about this and it is a scam operation. They will take your information, and in most cases, your credit card information to hold or purchase the tickets.  At that point, they charge you the amount of the ticket quoted, then their “service fee” which had been reported to be around $200.00 per ticket extra.  The worst part is that if they ever received tickets, they were bogus.  Several people reported going to the airport on these tickets and they were not even valid, but rather counterfeit.  The agent asked me to contact a Federal agency to report my experience and too because I actually had a phone number, I could turn that number in as well.  Many would be customers of the scammer had done their business online, or if by phone, the number was out of service.

Sadly, since travel started back in 2021, this type of fraud is on the rise.  They have websites that look like the popular pricing sites and mimic the official carrier sites.  They place ads on late night television and show up in sponsored ads on social media.  They are after your money and lots of it. In the past few years it is estimated that over 1 billion dollars was scammed from consumers while booking hotels, air and rental cars.


  • Always book with the official website of the airline, hotel and rental car agency, making sure that the site starts with ‘HTTPS” and look for misspellings and poor grammar. If you are still in doubt, contact the company or carrier to confirm.
  • Always use a credit card rather than a debit card when making transactions. Make sure that your credit card has fraud protection as a part of your contract with them.  Then always call after the purchase to make sure that a reservation is in place and who charged it to your card.  Verify the amount and the company and if fraud has taken place you will know it almost immediately.
  • If you do use a third-party site, make sure that it is a known brand but most importantly that it is reputable.
  • Family and friends are a good resource of travel consultants and companies and can let you know their experiences.
  • If you want to know that a company is indeed legitimate, contact the Better Business Bureau. There you can verify the company and see complaints as well as positive reviews.
  • Make sure you have all of the information pertaining to your travel contract, such as cancellation policies and penalties. This information should all be given to you upfront.



One of our pet peeves is hearing stories about people being defrauded by a scammer or in a few cases by fellow travel agencies.  All of it bothers us here at GroupSource because for 34 years we have made a point to be the best we can be and that means working with honesty and conducting business without reproach.  As a rule, most travel professionals are competent and trained to work hard on behalf of their clients.

If an agent or company is demanding that you pay cash for your purchase, consider that a red flag. Most agencies have multiple avenues of payment such as wire, check, Pay Pal and of course credit cards.  If they “only take cash” go elsewhere.  A good agency likes a paper trail for both of your sakes.

If they ask for a booking fee AFTER you have been quoted for your travel, pay attention. Reputable agencies will disclose ALL fees with you prior to booking.  Sometimes these fees aren’t even discussed but are charged to your card after the fact, leaving you to dispute it.

If your agent isn’t knowledgeable about travel and destinations, ask questions.  While they may not have travelled to the outer regions of the world, most professionals know where these destinations are.  A good agent will also listen to you and the needs you have for the trip, such as arrival and departure times, purpose of the travel and any other concerns.  If someone is talking over you and offering their suggestions without acknowledgement of your requests, think about moving on. If they are pushy, hang up. While these are not necessarily signs of fraud it is a sign of an agent that will not be the best one for you. Also, if you can’t reach the agency or they don’t return calls or emails, here is your sign!

Now one thing to note, while we don’t have to pass say a medical board or bar exam, we do have accreditations and those are something you should look for.  Our website clearly has IATAN (International Airlines Travel Agents Network) written at the bottom of our page as well as our accredited Better Business Bureau link. We are also affiliated with Virtuoso, which is an invitation only travel professional’s network. Some agencies are accredited by the American Society of Travel Agents or the Travel Institute.

There are agents out there that are hobbyists.   Nothing against them, but if your agent has gotten their certification online without any training or understanding of the travel industry, you may want to reconsider booking through them.  Travel is a very detailed industry and one mistake alone can tumble the whole trip over.

So the moral to The Tale of The Scammer is this… proceed with caution and wisdom… and maybe I am bit biased… but call an agency… call us… and we will let our experience be yours.