• Mar
    31

    How to Recover Your Money From Travel Fraud

     

    What I’m writing about are techniques that you can use to recover your money if you’ve been ripped off by a con artist. What I’m about to write here is controversial, and I want to state up-front that I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. If you have any concerns about what you read here, talk to a legal professional.

    This story is a step-by-step method that I used to recover my money from a fraud that happened several years ago. It had its roots in Canada, then continued down into Mexico.

    It all started when I posted a request for long-term accommodations on Rentalo.com. While my listing was on Rentalo.com, the information was sent out to various parties; some outside the system.

    According to Rentalo, property owners aren’t supposed to forward their listings to outside parties and there’s a system block in place, but it doesn’t prevent people from doing a cut and paste into an email, which is what happened here. Perhaps that’s changed since then; I don’t know.

    This is where things went sour, when I was contacted by a woman, who later turned out to be a fraud artist. The woman in question told of a deal “off the system.”

    That should have sent off alarm bells, but I was desperate to rent a place and I let that state of mind get in the way of my intuition.

    The next mistake I made was to send a mail order for the full amount of the rent ($700.00). I found out later that you should never do that. Far better to make a deposit of only $100.00 or so. If the property owner or agency pressures you to pay the full amount, ditch them. It could be fraud. If not, you may find that the property is unsuitable when you arrive and discover you can’t get a refund.

    When I discovered that the property didn’t match my needs in Mexico, I tried to contact the agent, only to find out she’d left for Mexico and didn’t leave a cell number for me. That put my anxiety through the ceiling.

    I found a new place and wrote to the agent asking for refund, but I was ignored by email. Also, the agent closed one of her accounts, which upped my anxiety even further and I knew I was in trouble. I was determined not to be a victim. Here’s what I did:

    First off, I filed a formal complaint with Rentalo even though their terms of service claimed no responsibility for problems with agents and/or property owners.

    I also posted compliants to the following sites in Canada:

    Report Economic Crime Online

    Phone Busters: The Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre

    They went nowhere. After awhile, I finally realized I was going about this the wrong way. While the fraud happened in Canada, the woman who started it went to Nuevo Vallarta, only a 20 minute ride from where I was in Bucerias.

    I decided to up the ante and do everything I could to take the fight into her front and back yard, if possible. Looking online for help I came upon: “The Ripoff Report” which offered a place for me to post my complaint (since then I’ve heard this site isn’t the greatest place, but it was a major ace for me at the time).

    The end result is I recovered most of my money, but it took some time. What triggered this, I’m not certain, but shortly after filing my ripoff report. First off, I sent a copy to the fraud artist. She responded the next day, saying she wanted to pay me back.

    But she ignored the deadline I set, so I upped the ante with an extensive media blitz using every method I could think of.

    Note: Here are a few things I learned about scammers. They count on you to feel embarassed, humiliated and ashamed and to go away. That’s one of the reasons that fraud goes on undetected for so long. Also, they count on you to be law abiding and use the authorities for help. Unfortunately, that’s largely ineffective, as I found out the hard way.

    Another realization was this: Scammers cannot stand it if you turn a spotlight on them in their own neighborhood, which is what I did, but this can be dangerous. In my case, I was so angry that I was determined to nail this woman.

    During this campaign I sent out about 60 email messages to all sorts of sources (including a real estate company in Mexico which forwarded my message to their list. 6 months later I was still getting messages). I also reported my story on several forums in the Puerto Vallarta area.

    It created a huge wave of support and I started to get a lot of emails. One was from a realtor in Puerto Vallarta who was tired of foreigners ripping off the locals.

    24 hours later, I had a frantic message from the scammer, begging me to stop my media blitz. The next day I met with her in downtown Puerto Vallarta and recovered roughly 90% of my money.

    I have to tell you that chasing her down was incredibly hard work, but something inside me would not give up and be a victim. I was determined to keep after her and it seems to have worked.

    A big problem with fraud is that the government in Canada (and the US in my opinion) are ill equipped to deal with this problem. The standard practice is to report the problem and wait for the authorities or government to take action. That could take years, if it happens at all. Meanwhile, all your money is lost and there can be a deep sense of violation.

    Worse, there are few resources on the Internet to help you recover your funds, only articles telling you how to protect yourself. There is almost nothing to help you after the fact. Another factor (in Canada at least) is the privacy act.

    When I tried to track the woman down, I found out what bank my money order went to, but not in which city, nor could I get any information on her activities. I was told by the bank manager that all this power to act lays in the hands of law enforcement officials or with government. The message: “You’re screwed.”

    Fortunately, I found the Ripoff report and used some of the techniques I read about.

    As a postscript, by the time I left Mexico, my posts on one forum alone had been read over 2,000 times.

    7 Comments
 

7 responses to “How to Recover Your Money From Travel Fraud” RSS icon

  • Hi,
    Just read your article. Congrats!
    I’ve just been ripped off by Evasco Travel agency in the Philippines. We wired a bank transfer to get airline ticket for my mother inlaw to come visit us in Canada. She had to leave with my wife by a certain date. Since the bank money was not arriving, i sent our last savings to my wife via Western Union. She got her mothers ticket and is now here in Canada for 6 months. Now the bank transfer could not be stopped on time so Evasco travel got the money in their account. They promised to re-imburse us our $2,300 usd. I even sent a friend of my wife there today and they tell us next tuesday. I really feel i am being played around. I am not great with a computer, but i sure don’t want to let this go by. Also at this end since we stopped payment, and they still got the money, the BMO wants their money from us. I am broke at this time. Please give me all the ideas you can and i’ll start on this day and night if i have to. Cheers, Maurice in Gatineau

  • Thanks for your feedback and request. I have to admit I’m not up on banking practices. I’ve heard that depending on the situation, you may be able to get the bank to reverse the payment, but I’m not sure about that. You would have to check with your bank about their polices. And outside of that, to keep working with the other institution to recover your funds. That’s the best I can offer.

    To those of you reading this thread, if any of you have banking knowledge, please add your comments.

  • Here is what i sent to about 400 Davao city, Philippines, business’s and including the mayor. If anyone feels like participating, feel free 🙂 Tomorrow my sister in law and her husband are going over with a media company of the Philippines. Thanks for inspirering me Nathan! I’ve been emailing for over 12 hours now, since midnight last night…
    Letter email at large:

    BAD BUSINESS WITH EVASCO TRAVEL DAVAO CITY, PHILIPINES

    We just purchased airline ticket from Evasco travel through Minerva (TANTAN) and her husband, the owners. Please call them and write to show your discontent into this fraud. This would help us and would show solidarity with all honest business people that one bad apple in business should not dirty or make rotten all a city like Davao. Please call, write and pass on to friends to do the same. Show you do not accept bad business practice like these, take a minute to call or write them, fill them with calls, text and email in support. They affect YOU also !

    Owner are Minerva and husband, known as TANTAN. Email: mevasco@yahoo.com and also: Evascotravel@yahoo.com .

    EVASCO TRAVEL & TOURS

    #8 Clarin St., near Sobrecarey St.,

    Bo. Obrero, Bgy. 18-B,

    Poblacion, Davao City,

    Metro Davao, Philippines

    ZIP 8000
    Telefax: +63.82.227.85.61 / +63.82.227.38.83

    Mobile Phone: +63.920.903.1398 / +63.922.818.3882

    Story that happened just 2 weeks ago.

    We wired the money $2,300usd through our bank to the BDO. Since our bank transfer was not arriving on time, I sent to my wife via Western Union a second amount of $2,300usd to purchase the airline ticket needed for her mother to travel with her and visit us here in Canada. Since mother is of age, we did not wish for her to travel alone. My wife, Jesusita, then went to Evasco Travel and paid to Minerva, TANTAN, the airline ticket in cash and we got the airline tickets. My mother inlaw, lola to our 2 children, is now here in Canada for 6 month visit. This is the first time she finally can take her grand-children in her arms. But then this happened, the bank transfer was not stopped on time and money was deposited by BDO into Evasco Travels account. We informed BDO and they did nothing. Now Minerva(TANTAN) and husband, say that he, the husband (bana) is not available to refund us because he is to busyand this is now going on for over 2 weeks. We would like to get our overpayment money back now. The bank here is also requesting us to give them back the $2,300usd that was not stopped on time and that BDO left Evasco Travel take freely. So this makes for us a total of $6,900usd dollars for 1 airline ticket, what a fraud and theft.

    We are looking in getting your help, since we are also good tourist, 4 visits in Davao in the past 5 years. We are asking you to post this information and to please pass on this information on to others to avoid such fraud and to help pressure Evasco travel, Miss Minerva know as TANTAN to refund us our double payment. Please send to as many people and business’s as you can so no one else gets ripped off, frauded. Do write to them, fill the email box and call them non-stop. If it where you, I would help you in the same way, because enough fraud dirties good business ethics. All of this and business like these affect your business with tourist…

    I can be reached at MoreLifeMaurice@gmail.com or on my cell at +613-612-0552, in Canada. Today we will also be depositing our complaint to 3 Canadian Government agencies to investigate this unfortunate fraud event. They are: Financial Consumer Fraud Agency of Canada + Anti-fraud Centre of Canada for tourism (which will publicize events happening in Davao City, Philippines, affecting all tourist & business opinion) + to Foreign Affairs Canada. Please help us asap so we do not have to deposit these to the above Government agencies.

    Greatly appreciate your help to stop such abuse in the travel agency world, giving a bad name to the good business people who work hard to get consumer business. Business so easily destroyed by one bad apple in a big city like Davao.

    Honorable Madame Mayor Duterte has received a copy written to her attention regarding this fraud event by Evasco travel Agency and Miss Minerva know as TANTAN and her husband.

    Sincerely yours, Salamat,

    Maurice Leonard

    Ottawa, Canada

  • Thank you again Nathan !

    Do hope you will be happy to read the following. To those who did something in regards to our previous letter, it worked. Nathan’s site blog is a great way to put inequalities for the small guys in the publics eye and to get some justice when we are at a loss, for instance half a world away in our case (Canada – Philippines). Thank you all !
    Letter of appreciation:

    Good morning from Canada,

    I am writting to you regarding my previous letter: Evasco Travel. We finally received 95% reimbursement for our Airline Ticket overpayment. This did take many: onsite + telephone + Texting interventions and your help, when simply it could have taken only 24 hours to settle, by Evasco simply refusing to accept double payment at BDO bank as we and BMO Canada bank had asked by fax, email, call and texting. All these multiple interventions would not have taken place, and you would not have heard any of this situation or of Evasco travel. I still wonder why this situation has taken the path it took to receive re-reimbursement, Evasco Travel husband and wife where so nice to us on site and I do believe this is how they really are, but overall, we finally received our overpayment refund, less 113$ Canadian. NOTE that we will not fight for this 113$CDN, but are sad to lose it. As my Asawa says: ‘We do purchasing in Canada from now on, much simpler and less stressful on the family’. As for myself will not put aside purchasing in the Philippines, I’ve always received good greetings and excellent service during my past trips and visits, and at times may I say: Service better then some places I get in Canada, this good service is especially true in Davao, a city we like and will soon return.

    Our family would like to thank you for recognizing our letter and see no reason to pursue beyond this point any further intervention with Evasco Travel in regards to our situation, since 95% re-reimbursement was issued yesterday morning to a good friend of ours who again went on site, our Friday night and there Saturday morning Feb 24, 2013, and she immediately sent it to us through Western Union, same day (Took 12 minutes, bank takes 3 weeks +). Although we did have to cover all expenses for a few friends to go multiple-times and solicitate our re-reimbursement, so we are at a lost of more then the 113$cdn. We must personally cover these loses at our Bank, no fun. If Evasco would of acted promptly in the beginning, all of these cost on our behalf to get our re-reimbursement + the 113$CDN cut Evasco kept, would all have been avoided. And we are not speaking of the stress-cost toll on our family here..

    We thank you for reading our 2 letters and if you intervened in someway to help us, we thank you very much. This new world of communication gives the big business, the governments and the small single person a full voice in this worldwide, finally.

    Something to always remember is this: ‘You and I now have a voice worldwide 🙂 ‘ and through Nathans blog :).
    Sincerely,
    Maurice

  • I received an email message from Evasco Travel & Tours yesterday (March 16, 2013) asking me to take down these comments because the issue was resolved. I choose not to do that. While Maurice informed me that he recovered most of the funds, he was still out some money on the transaction. To me, that doesn’t seem like a full resolution.

    And for the record, the same thing happened to me with a travel fraud situation many years ago. On the surface it looked like I’d obtained a full refund but when I later checked the exchange, I discovered that the scammer had shorted me $100.00 for her “work,” despite the fact that I wound up with nothing for a rental.

  • Maurice Leonard

    Good morning Nathan,
    Just to let you and everyone know that getting our money back comes with a cost. The other end, since we are not naming anymore, can do a complaint on us to their advantage to the: Slander Department of Philippines. This seems to have been done, causing us not to be able to return to the Philippines, because we could be arrested at customs upon entering. Then, since the system there is American based, court and lawyer cost would be extravegent. Everything to make a buck… But then to lose tourists and much more money is another cost that should be considered. The risk is to high to find out if we can re-enter Philippines from here on!
    Getting our money back comes with a cost, even when we are righteous. So many other places in this world to visit…
    Thank you all,
    Maurice
    Maurice

  • I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. Sometimes, standing your ground comes at a price, even when you’re right.

    I would like to suggest one thing, that you write to Chris Elliott of Elliott.org. He is a travel advocate and he might be able to help you. I’m going to write to him on your behalf.


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