Dozens of holidaymakers in Turkey have been victimized by scam hotel websites created by a fraudulent online travel platform, which is accused of conning customers out of thousands of Turkish Liras with fake reservations.
A travel agency, which has been operating under the name TTM Tourism and through the website www.tatilmanya.com, has appeared to deceive hundreds of customers longing for cheaper vacation options offered by web platforms.
Hundreds of complaints issued to the Tourism Ministry, Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) and consumer associations have revealed the scam network, leading to TÜRSAB to cancel the Antalya-based company’s operation licenses.
The details of the defrauding unveiled by the complaint letters sent to authorities have appalled customers and authorities, fueling concerns over the risks of unsecure online shopping platforms.
According to claims issued by victimized customers, the agency created fake websites for renowned hotels in Turkey’s top Aegean and Mediterranean holiday destinations, like Bodrum, Alanya, Kemer, Side, Kuşadası and Çeşme.
Customers who looked for cheap hotel advantages through online search engines found fake websites created by Tatilmanya and called fake numbers found on these websites, thinking they were calling the hotels’ customer services.
The personnel answering the phone said the reservation procedures are carried out by Tatilmanya and customers’ credit cards were charged by the website online.
The customers were also sent a hotel entry document and purchasing contract via e-mail to confirm their bookings.
However, clients were called by people, who claimed to be hotel personnel, two or three days prior to their check-in date to inform them that their reservations had been cancelled.
“We have received food poisoning complaints at the hotel you booked. Therefore, your reservation has been canceled. Your money will be returned within seven to 14 days,” the voice on the phone told customers.
But the scheme was exposed when customers filed complaints months later when they did not receive their money.
One of the customers who claimed to be deceived by the platform said “This is officially aggravated fraud.”
“They created a fake website for the hotel. How can such a thing happen? On top of that, when I said ‘Your center has been shut down,’ to the so-called authorities, they told me ‘We are so sorry; we are under maintenance,’” he said.
The owners of the actual hotels that were sabotaged to cheat customers also expressed surprise and remorse over the hundreds who were victimized.
Sedat Tamgüler, manager of one of those hotels, Grand Beauty in Antalya, confirmed the network and claimed the money conned out of it is thought to be 5 million liras in total.
“Unfortunately they cheated people by creating a fake website for our hotel. They did the same thing to other hotels and it is said the money stolen totals about 5 million [liras],” he said.
The manager said there are still people who come to the hotel claiming to have a reservation through Tatilmanya.