In what is appearing to be a glorified travel Ponzi Scheme, more than two dozen people say their vacation plans have been ruined by an unscrupulous travel agent.
The British Broadcasting Corp. is reporting that London-based Around The World Travel, owned by Hayley King, is under investigation by police for allegedly scamming customers.
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Customers who booked travel packages with King at substantially lower prices have told the BBC that once they reached their hotels there were no rooms. The network said it spoke to 32 people who claimed to have had their holiday plans ruined, losing an average of about £3,000 each.
One woman lost her honeymoon. Effi Gounaris planned to go to the Maldives with her new husband, paying £5,000 to Ms. King but found out from the airline her tickets were not valid. Suspicious, she called her hotel and found it was not pre-paid, as it was supposed to be.
“My heart jumped in my throat,” she said. “I feel embarrassed. Never in a million years did I think I would be a victim to a holiday scam. When it is too good to be true, it probably really is too good to be true.”
Apparently, the business collapsed in April. King has not been seen nor reachable for comment.
In a statement, Metropolitan Police said: “Detectives from the Met’s Economic Crime Unit are investigating an allegation of fraud relating to an individual taking payment for travel bookings which fail to materialise.”
So far, the investigation has revealed a Ponzi-like scheme in which dozens of newer customers who thought they were getting discounts were actually paying for other people’s flights and hotels.
Earlier this year, a Florida woman was scammed by a fake travel agent and a Louisiana woman was sentenced to nine years in prison for scamming travelers over $80,000.
If you want to avoid being scammed when it comes to booking travel, check out these helpful tips.