Airline ticket scams very rare in Ontario but ‘know who you are dealing with’: expert
Published January 27, 2023 at 4:25 pm
An airline ticket scam allegedly operating from Ontario is highly unusual an industry expert notes.
A woman from Brampton and a man from Vaughan face charges in connection with the scam, Peel Regional Police announced yesterday (Jan. 26).
Between June 2021 and December 2021, two people allegedly misrepresented themselves as working for travel agencies based out of the United Kingdom. They fraudulently sold valid flight tickets to unsuspecting customers and collected the payments to benefit themselves financially.
More than 250 airline tickets were fraudulently issued and sold at a value of more than $500,000. The majority of the customers who purchased the tickets were from the Calgary area and the flights were primarily to Africa.
There is fraud in the travel industry but this case is unique, Dorian Werda, vice president of operations for the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) tells insauga.com.
The last similar case she recalls was back in the 1990s.
“Back in 1992, there was a travel agency that was printing up these bogus tickets and selling them,” Werda says.
Werda adds TICO did not receive any complaints about the case from Peel Regional Police but if they had, they would have investigated. The customers in this case were mostly in Alberta and likely weren’t aware the two suspects were in Ontario.
“If we even got a whiff of something like this happening, we would launch an investigation,” she says.
TICO can lay provincial offences charges. The most common issue TICO deals with is unregistered travel agencies.
Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec have a regulated travel industry, which means travel agencies and booking agencies must be registered with TICO. Any travel retailer, online booking website or tour operator based in Ontario is required by law to be registered with TICO.
“You just can’t set up shop and start selling travel services,” Werda says.
So travellers who buy tickets or book a holiday with an Ontario-based agency can avoid fraud by checking if the agency is registered with TICO.
Unfortunately, people can mistakenly buy tickets from an unregistered agency, particularly online.
“It’s very easy, especially when you’re online — a couple of clicks and you’re out of the province, and you’re on a website that’s out of the country or in another province in Canada,” she says. “We get emails all the time from consumers asking for help.”
Unfortunately, they can only help if the agency is in Ontario. To make sure you are booking with a legitimate, Ontario company, verify the agency is registered on the ‘find an agency’ feature at https://tico.ca/.
“Know who you’re dealing with,” says Werda. “Especially when you’re booking online, make sure you understand what the terms and conditions of the travel services are that you’re booking.”
Werda also suggests not forgoing travel insurance.
“Always make sure you have the right travel insurance,” she says.
TICO also accepts complaints from consumers against TICO-registered travel agencies, websites and tour operators. TICO’s role is to facilitate the flow of information between the consumer and the travel company to assist in resolving a dispute.
In Ontario, there is a Travel Industry Compensation Fund, which helps consumers who are impacted by the failure of an Ontario travel agency or website, Ontario tour operator or any airline or cruise line.
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