Fraudulent Travel Agency- Small Claims

I booked a long haul flight ticket for me and my family from a well known U.K (London) based Travel Agency  in September 2021 for travel in December 2021.

After speaking to the travel agent, we agreed on a price and the agency emailed the quote and also their bank account details  where funds needs to be transferred.
The email was sent via their company domain and the agent also advised that they prefer a BACS payment as opposed to Credit Card payment  so they can offer a better discount.

I agreed to the above and remitted the payment via Bank Transfer totalling £2.5k
Agent also advised that they can only issue the flight ticket 30 days prior departure i.e. November 2021

Since, I have not received the ticket as per agreement,  I went to query the issue with the agency in November 2021.

Their response was that the employee or travel agent who booked the ticket for me was a scammer and he is no longer working for the company and the Bank details provided on the email was also his personal account as opposed to the Company.
Because of the above, travel agency has advised that they are unable to reimburse or provide a valid ticket as they claim to be not at fault.

Furthermore, the same flight ticket which costed £2.5k in September 2021 is now over £5k

Based on the above, please could some who is experienced, advise me about the chances of winning a Small claims if I were to book a new ticket else where for £5k and claiming for the initial £2.5k + the different between the current price and September 2021 price i.e £2.5k


Any thoughts highly appreciated.
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Replies

  • WestinWestin Forumite
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    Oh wow - what a pickle.

    Who is the "a well known U.K (London) based Travel Agency"?  

    When you set up to make the bank transfer was there no check on the account holders name/details?

    If a reputable travel firm I would have thought that they would hold and take responsibility for their (past) employee, or at least wish to have you make a statement to the police or authorities regarding this apparent fraudulent act.

    Might be worth contacting https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/




  • Worried_foolWorried_fool Forumite
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    Have you contacted your bank?

    Rather than suing the travel agent, you might find it more useful to cooperate with their management in a criminal investigation: obviously they are victims of crime as well as you.
  • jamesbundjamesbund Forumite
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    Westin said:
    Oh wow - what a pickle.

    Who is the "a well known U.K (London) based Travel Agency"?  

    When you set up to make the bank transfer was there no check on the account holders name/details?

    If a reputable travel firm I would have thought that they would hold and take responsibility for their (past) employee, or at least wish to have you make a statement to the police or authorities regarding this apparent fraudulent act.

    Might be worth contacting https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/




    Thank for responding.
    I didn't want to name the company first but since you asked they are "Southall Travels"
    The main issue is that the agent provided me a bank account details which is not based in the U.K and the unfortunately, I did not pay much attention to that fact since the details were provided by the employee through company email.

    Ok, I will contact action fraud, thanks for the advise.

    The management has not provided any solution so far  and I am short of time since we really need to book our flight ticket for the next month and I am not sure if I should wait for their response or go ahead and book a valid ticket directly with an airline coughing up another £5K in the hope that I will be able to claim this back from in the future?
    Judging by the amount of negative feedbacks on Trustpilot I am losing faith.
  • jamesbundjamesbund Forumite
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    Have you contacted your bank?

    Rather than suing the travel agent, you might find it more useful to cooperate with their management in a criminal investigation: obviously they are victims of crime as well as you.
    I have not contacted the bank but honestly never thought Bank could help in these situations were a credit or debit card was not used?
    Thanks
  • WestinWestin Forumite
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    jamesbund said:
    Westin said:
    Oh wow - what a pickle.

    Who is the "a well known U.K (London) based Travel Agency"?  

    When you set up to make the bank transfer was there no check on the account holders name/details?

    If a reputable travel firm I would have thought that they would hold and take responsibility for their (past) employee, or at least wish to have you make a statement to the police or authorities regarding this apparent fraudulent act.

    Might be worth contacting https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/




    Thank for responding.
    I didn't want to name the company first but since you asked they are "Southall Travels"
    The main issue is that the agent provided me a bank account details which is not based in the U.K and the unfortunately, I did not pay much attention to that fact since the details were provided by the employee through company email.

    Ok, I will contact action fraud, thanks for the advise.

    The management has not provided any solution so far  and I am short of time since we really need to book our flight ticket for the next month and I am not sure if I should wait for their response or go ahead and book a valid ticket directly with an airline coughing up another £5K in the hope that I will be able to claim this back from in the future?
    Judging by the amount of negative feedbacks on Trustpilot I am losing faith.

    I would be very warry of thinking this is a likely outcome.

    Southall Travel is (or was) a large reputable firm. I'm surprise that they have completely washed their hands of the matter - especially as it seems to have been one of their employees who has been dishonest.  Might it be worth contacting them again and mention that unless they wish to find a resolution you will contact Action Fraud.  As worried_fool suggests perhaps also a call to your bank to get all the details of where the transfer was made to - then you can pass that on to Action Fraud/Southall.

    Southall also have some social media so a factually correct, brief to the point and top line complaint posted there about an allege dishonest employee might get their attention.  I doubt they will want that type of publicity. 


  • edited 25 November at 5:28PM
    StuieUK34StuieUK34 Forumite
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    edited 25 November at 5:28PM
    i know this scenario, not with a travel firm mind, but from my own opinion, the travel agent is at fault, and i highly recommend you spend some cash on a solictor who can deal with consumer affairs.  See, if an employee acted dishonestly, it makes no odds, your dealing is with the company, the employee acts on behalf of that company.
    I would say the company was breached, and scammers worked there scam..
    Why i know this scenario ?

    employee clicks link in his email, thinks he is logging into something genuine and entering his mail account detail (office365 based for instance)..
    He is not logging into a genuine site, but scammers now have his domain mail & password (say domain is on office365/cloud)

    Scammers now login as that user (in your case, as the travel agent), they create a rule to filter emails between you and the scammer, sending the mail to a folder that the actual employee cannot see.
    Theres now a trust between you and the fake agent (not to be confused with another fake agent! ;)  )
    Although a BACS should request should have set alarm bells ringing, thats another story....

    But for you, as the customer, the correspondance will show the transactions between you and the company, therefore, you the customer have carried out the instruction as per the company request.
    I tell my users not to click willy-nilly, but they do  :(

    The value for the scenario i am talking about is over £40k, and the business customer, as far as they were concerned, were not in the wrong (ok, granted, customer/client should always pick up a phone to query bank stuff if there is a hint of un-surity..... )

    As others advised, fraud route, log with bank, and put in writing to the travel firm along with copies of the correspondance, but mainly, get some legal advice if you want to recover any funds.....

  • SandtreeSandtree Forumite
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    Who do you bank with?

    Since the CoP process came in then almost all banks will check the name of the account holder for any new PAYEE that you set up against the name on the receiving account. This clearly should identified that the account was a private individual's and not in the travel agent's name. 

    The travel company needs to deal with the matter, and think about buying Employee Fidelity insurance in the future if their controls and processes arent good enough to prevent employee fraud.
  • Alan_BowenAlan_Bowen Forumite
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    Southall are a very reputable company and the concept of vicarious liability normal means that an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees. However as others have pointed out, banks now check and confirm that an account is in the name of the business you are dealing with and also confirms whether it is a private account or company account before allowing you to proceed.

    If that occurred, particularly when the account was overseas which would have almost certainly caused the bank to issue a warning, and you still proceeded, I am not certain either your bank or Southall are going to be too keen to reimburse you.
  • edited 26 November at 10:54AM
    martindowmartindow Forumite
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    edited 26 November at 10:54AM
    Sandtree said:
    Who do you bank with?

    Since the CoP process came in then almost all banks will check the name of the account holder for any new PAYEE that you set up against the name on the receiving account. This clearly should identified that the account was a private individual's and not in the travel agent's name.
    The OP sent the money internationally it seems, so there was probably no check.  Not sending to a UK account would have rung alarm bells for me, especially where a large sum of money is concerned.

    Just a thought, is the OP sure they are really contacting the travel agent?  Presumably the contact details were spoofed as part of this fraud, so they may be complaining to the fraudster.

  • onashoestringonashoestring Forumite
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    What was the precise wording from Southall Travel in reply to you - was it a generic reply this must be a scam or did they categorically admit that it was a former employee ?

    Can you post on here  their reply which says it was a previous employee  ( with your personal details deleted/blacked out ) ?
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