crime

Travel agency closes after customers complain of not getting paid-for plane tickets

31 Comments

A travel agency in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward has suddenly closed after more than 600 customers who had reserved plane tickets for travel during Golden Week complained that they never received their paid-for tickets.

According to Tokyo city officials, the company in question, Shibuya Travel Plaza, is suspected of being a scam company, Sankei reported. No one has been able to contact the agency since the end of March.

Throughout April, the Consumer Affairs Agency received the complaints from customers concerned that they had not yet received tickets they booked and paid for online. Sources say that some consumers who purchased tickets from the agency, spent 300,000 yen or more.

One man was quoted by media as saying: "My wife and I was planning a trip to Kyushu, just the two of us, for four days and three nights and paid in full. However, after paying 94,000 yen, I did not receive the tickets and called the company repeatedly, but never got through. All of my excitement about the trip was crushed. I don't even know what to say."

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31 Comments
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Scam ...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Did they pay by cash? If they paid by credit card, they could have contacted their bank to report the company. Or is thinking just true for the states? Do the banks here help or intervene on the customer's behalf? I worked in a department of bank back in the states which did just that. Before that, I encountered some issues with a vendor when I paid by check or credit card. In both cases, my bank stepped in and helped me get my refund. (The vendors either mailed me a refund check or reversed the transaction.)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Scammers always target people who are gullible, naive and helpless ... sadly, this is increasingly becoming the very definition of anyone who still relies on a travel agent in this day and age, even in Japan.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

I don't think these customers were naive or gullible in any way.

When one uses a travel agency and/or buy tickets online, they should expect to get tickets. Period.

People use travel agencies all the time. How exactly are these people more "gullible, naive, and helpless" than others?

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Don't travel agencies have to be licensed in Japan?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I did not receive the tickets and called the company repeatedly, but never got through. All of my excitement about the trip was crushed.I don’t even know what to say.”

you have said enough, your sorrows are heard by digital media readers as well. My sympathy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well I tend to use travel agencies a lot of the times for vacations because they can offer the best value for money, especially when there are promotions (which are snapped up very quickly). But I tend to stick with the big ones like HIS.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How exactly are these people more "gullible, naive, and helpless" than others?

If you have ever tried to book a domestic flight during golden week, you know how almost impossible it is and how you will never get a ticket to Kyushu for only Y47,000 per person (and let me guess, two seats side by side just happened to be available?). The only way you will ever get a seat is if you go on the airline's website 9 months in advance at midnight when the bookings open, or line up at HIS to get some of the seats they are allocated. I don't know all the facts here but I'm guessing they were turned away by every single legit travel agent until they found this place.

Of course they should have got their tickets and my heart goes out to them, but I'm just saying that we should expect even more of this as the savvy buyers have gone online (with their credit cards) and the scammers see the remaining (cash paying) customers as rich pickings.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

How do you know they didn't buy online with their credit cards? Most travel agencies have websites, and you can pay online with your credit card.

The credit card companies here are not much help when things go bad.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

How do you know they didn't buy online with their credit cards?

I'm guessing it's cash on the assumption that this is a scam. The payment processing companies will generally do some vetting of these companies beforehand and the money is traceable when it's paid into a bank account at the end of the month. Pretty risky for a scammer. Also, they probably wouldn't bother renting a location in Shibuya if their aim was just to scam people online.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Credit card companies and banks in Japan do not offer that type of protection in the event of a scam, their response is to tell you to discuss the matter with said party. Not helpful at all. They only intervene and slowly in the event your card was used illegally by a 3rd party. However if you yourself committed to a purchase and then never received your goods, in Japan youre basically on your own, unlike in the US.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The payment processing companies will generally do some vetting of these companies beforehand

Not really. Anyone can sign up for a merchant account with payment gateways.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not only they stole their money but they also screwed up their Golden Week which is a good long time for R&R. They should get their money back and more.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Strangerland: You said 'The credit card companies here are not much help when things go bad.' My experience with credit card companies in the states was always excellent when problems arose. Here in Japan I've had to 'contest' one transaction using my Japanese credit card and 'eventually' my charges were reversed but only after several emails documenting every step of my transaction and even then I had to wait about 4 months before the money showed up in my account. All in all, I found the Japanese system much less 'user friendly' or 'consumer oriented' then the system in place in the states. Better late than never, but really late is most unpleasant.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I've only had one incident, but it was the polar opposite. Even after explaining how the company charged me after I had canceled the service in question, and showing that I had done so in the allotted time, the credit card company told me it was an issue between myself and the company and that they could not/would not do anything about it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

that is alot of money for scammers, hope they will be caught and prosecuted.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have known people here who had their cards abused, and they settled it quickly.

Travel agents here in general are great. They have privy to the inside material through their terminals of which we cannot find online.

Be careful of HIS though. I looked online and bookmarked a ticket. The ticket price was a bit odd. When I went to HIS to see if I could get a better deal, they quoted a price for exactly ¥5000 more on top of the odd price I had bookmarked. The guy refused to show me his computer screen. He was on the same site as I was but added a ¥5000 service fee. That is a scam.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I found what appears to be their website. They only accept bank transfers, no credit cards. However, they seem to have been in business since around 2010 so it doesn't appear to be an outright scam by professionals.

http://www.travelticket-cafe.com/nagare.htm

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He was on the same site as I was but added a ¥5000 service fee. That is a scam.

No, it's a service fee. You're paying the difference between their bricks-and-mortar cost of sale and their online cost of sale, rounded either up or down to a one-size-fits-all ¥5,000.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My Bank of America Visa card number was once used to pay about $400 for a hotel room in some foreign Asian resort (don't remember which). Even though BoA has some outrageous fees, their anti-fraud program is awesome. Got my money back quickly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland

The credit card companies here are not much help when things go bad.

I beg to differ... Somebody took 800 000 yen out of my son's "parent/child" credit card some years ago. My son had spent only a couple of days - and very little money - in England. He was already back in France when the money was withdrawn - in England. All it took was a 'phone call to the Credit Company and a photocopy of his boarding pass (at the time, no Internet yet) and everything was OK.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If that company scammed those people out of their holidays, well, how nasty. I am really sorry for the victims, and I hope they get their money back and more.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yep! No doubt this company was offering very cheap rates as well to attract customers. If something seems too good to be true it usually is! I hope these people get their money back and the scammers are caught, but I have my doubts.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

More than 600 customers ended up being unable to go traveling that they had presumably been anticipating for a long time.

And to make matters worse, they seem to haven't got their money back. If that's really the case, then they have really taken a one-two punch. Hope they'll get their money back by hook or by crook.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I feel very sorry for these people. In all likelihood they used this company because it offered cheaper tickets than the usual tried and true companies, which tend to jack up prices on the holidays. As such, though, caveat emptor springs to mind. They should have been a little more wary about trusting a small, independent company with no reputation. That's the only plus that'll come out of this -- people will be more wary from here on in. I just hope they can catch the people in question... and it shouldn't be THAT difficult to find leads... and these people get reimbursed as well as the company members thrown in jail.

I'm sorry their GW was ruined.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Yakuza

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Whenever I travel ,I go in person & NOT online-I pay the money & get my tickets right there. Although this may be a hassle i've never in 40 years had a problem.Too many Scams in the on-line world.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And to make matters worse, they seem to haven't got their money back. If that's really the case, then they have really taken a one-two punch. Hope they'll get their money back by hook or by crook.

Seems to me they have to catch the perps before they can get the money back, and I'll bet that's all being spent right now as the crooks are on THEIR Golden Week vacation.

Yakuza

Could be, or it could be some other people who needed funds for their Golden Week.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Travel agents in Japan operating legally have to be registered and pay a stipend that goes toward insurance in case one of them goes under.

On the page M3M3M3 linked to, the company claims to be registered, though I don't know if the thing they mention is the legally required registration or not. I just want to point out that they claim to be a legit business and that that might be enough for folks to believe in them.

For quite some time, it was cheaper to buy international return tickets starting in Japan from overseas agents selling such tickets as special "yobiyose-ken". You could buy them from HIS in London, for example. I never got round to buying one, but I would have happily sent money overseas for slightly dodgy sounding tickets that were much cheaper than tickets bought in Japan with the rip off "nenryou surcharge". I don't think the victims of this scammer have been particularly stupid or naive.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They are scam artists who must be doing various scam operations for years. They disappeared. They must be on different scam. There are many people in Japan they can scam. Like people who don't know how to buy their own airline tickets.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Right. There are many people in Japan they can scam. But looks like more people recently are hip-to-the-skip, when it comes to "ore-ore" scams.

Tough times for the average Japanese. Look for more stories like this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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