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Ask Ely Your Own Question

Ely, Consultant
Category: Fraud Examiner
Satisfied Customers: 100053
Experience:  Attorney in law with focus on consumer protection
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Is this travel agent an authentic enterprise? I suspect they

Customer Question

Is this travel agent an authentic enterprise? I suspect they might be a front for an online dating scam taking money for flights and holiday planning via fake profiles in online dating.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Fraud Examiner
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 month ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 month ago.

What is your involvement with them precisely?

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I have made contact with a young lady via a online dating service, we have written to each other for about 6 weeks, I have supported her with a visa application, she has deposited $300.00 Au in a initial visa deposit and requested that if I would support her with her return flights? I was willing to take a small risk and transferred $1050.00 Au to the said bank account advised in my initial letter. Once these transfers cleared, I was requested several days later to transfer an additional $4,500.00 Au for the lady to create a bank account via the travel agent that would allow her to provide this bank statement to the Australian Embassy in support of her Visa application, and they assured me that the sum of $4,500.00 au would be returned to me after the bank account was created for a bank statement which would then be closed and the monies be redeposited to my account. I believe this activity could be fraudulent thus I grew concerned. I understand, I understand that a 12 month holiday visa to Australia requires a bank balance of 50,000.00 RMB. Thus I contacted another friend to see if should could find that the mentioned agent was authentic, she was unable to and was also suspicious, there web site has many flaws and is only supported with mobile numbers I'm led to believe. Correspondence from friend as follows.I ask a travel agency for visa application it does need the proof that you have at lest 50000RMB in your bank account . But it can be only a copy of bank account . But that does prove that your travel agency is authentic . I have never heard about 抚掌travel agency or in English Fufang travel agency . And I look at the telephone of the Travel agency which contact you . They are mobile phone . Usually the travel agency has their office numbers .
I am afraid that you may be in a trap and the money you transferred to them may not be able to find back and they want to ask for more money to transfer to them . But I don't know about the lady and all the other details . If you transfer 50000RmB to her account to prove that she has the enough money to apply for visa . Also you may not get the money back .
Good luck Bella Thus I've made contact with this site to determine further the behavior and authenticity of the agent. My concern is this the new and elaborate international dating scam? If so, I will participate in gathering information and pass such information forward to current relevant authority's for consideration.
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
That phone number requires international code obviously***********
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 month ago.

Thank you. It does indeed appear to be a scam. I have seen many examples of fake travel agencies being created just fr the purpose of a romance scam to make it look authentic that the person you are corresponding with is making genuine attempts for travel.

They say they have been in business for over 50 years but the website was only created in February this year. Of course I would not have expected it to have been in existence for 50 years but at least a number of years. Also the website’s owner has hidden their details from public view which would be unusual if they were genuine.

The agents they have provided photos of are fake as they can be found on the internet on other sites.

Sadly China does not have a public site where you can check registered companies (at least not in English) so I cannot verify the authenticity of the agents in that way. Instead you have to look at all other factors and identify common red flags which show this is most likely a scam. From my experience in fraud examining, the examples I have seen in the past and the evidence here, I am almost certain they are indeed a scam.

I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 month ago.

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. If this has answered your question please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars from the top of the page. I spend a lot of time and effort answering individual queries and I am not credited for my time until you leave your rating. If you still need further help please get back to me on here and I will assist as best as I can. Many thanks.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
RE:Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. If this has answered your question and RE: Thank you. It does indeed appear to be a scam.Not really, appearances is what led me here, and an appearance was not what I sought, confirmation of this agency being authentic yes or no would answer my question.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 month ago.

You would need to contact a Chinese lawyer in that case, someone who has access to the Chinese business register

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Up goes the iron curtain!
Expert:  Ely replied 1 month ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.
Your previous expert has opted out and I have opted in..
No, this does not seem to be an authentic business. We know this by the following red flags:
1) This site was set up on 02-03-2016, and set to expire in a year. Meaning, it is brand new, and will be expiring soon. This is how most scam sites operate - they create a new site and then let it expire in a year because by then, they have recreated themselves in another site. Many authentic business grab the domain name for at least 5 years.
2) In addition, the registrant on the WHOIS data listed for the site is an anonymous third party corporation called Domains by Proxy, LLC. In other words, you don't know WHO this really is! Most authentic businesses list an actual individual or contact information. Not here. I see this all the time with scam sites once I run the WHOIS analysis.
3) Finally, add to this your story which has a lot of issues with it (it sounds much like a romance scam).
So while we do not have any concrete evidence about the business being real or not such as access to a database that would state so, I would say with 98.5% certainty that you are being scammed. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
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