Beware of Dodgy Travel Agents

05/11/2014 16:49

Consumers are advised to refrain from accessing the services of a Suva-based visa consultancy agency which is promising to provide tourist visa and work permit at a fee.

The consultancy is operating as Star Agencies Global Migration and Travel Services, also known as Star Agency.

This alert from the Council comes amid complaints from consumers who paid close to $11,000 to the agency for migration visa and work permits for Australia. After the money was paid to them, the agency just vanished, leaving the clients depressed and disappointed.

The agency had enticed the consumers to hire its services by putting out advertisements in the local dailies promising them quick and easy access to greener pastures, abroad.

The Council has so far received three complaints against this agency. In one case, a consumer paid $4,000 to Star Agency in May, 2014 to secure a visa and work permit in Australia and till date has not received any update on his application. Attempts to contact the agency proved futile as their phone number provided remains diverted. Two other families paid close to $7,000 to the same travel agency, they too are oblivious about the whereabouts of the agents.

The physical address of the travel consultancy service according to its receipt issued to the consumers is 1st Floor, 90 Waimanu Road, Suva while the residential address of the agents as stated on the Company Registration form is Lot 30, Greene Street, Howell Road, Samabula.

It is believed that the agency has shut down its operations and is nowhere to be found. All calls made to their phones remain unanswered, restricting any possible reach.

The Council’s investigation into the matter further reveals that the case is now with the Police.

The Council believes money trail must be ascertained to establish whether third party was involved in this fraud as claimed by the Star Agency officials. As far as consumers are concerned, Star Agency must be held accountable.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are more dodgy travel agents around, leaving many vulnerable consumers out of pocket. In the last six years, the Council has registered more than 100 complaints against some unscrupulous travel agents.

This is a matter of grave concern to the Council as consumers, mostly the first-time job holders and the fresh graduates who are eager to work overseas, are deceived by such dishonest travel agents.

The Council strongly advices consumers to liaise with family/friends or the Consumer Council for reviews and information on travel agencies before acquiring their service.