Tour scam: An anonymous email alerted victims in UAE
Abu Dhabi - Victims said the tour packages had 75 days of five star hotel stays anywhere in the world within 25 weeks of registration.
Hundreds of UAE residents were allegedly duped by a tour company, which sold non-existent dream holiday packages with stays in luxury hotels at discounted rates, said they were alerted of the scam through a bulk email.
The email from an anonymous sender alerted victims about the scale and severity of the scam worth millions of dirhams. By the time the victims - mostly Indian expats from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah - realised the fraud, culprits had made away with the loot.
The office of Make My Tour in the Capital is now shut with a complaint note from the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (DED) pasted on the door. Victims have lodged police complaints, reached out to the embassy and sought legal assistance.
'They mesmerise you with deals'
The trap, victims said, is laid in the malls across the country.
"A pleasant sales executive is at the entrance of every mall, who invites you to fill a simple form. The next day, you receive a call saying you have won a lucky draw and need to be in their office with the family to collect the prize. They then introduce tour packages and mesmerise you. Eventually, you will sign the contract and pay through cheque or credit card. But, when you try to avail the services, it will not work," said Indhu Saravanan, who lost Dh35,000.
Victims claimed the tour packages had 75 days of five-star hotel stays anywhere in the world within 25 weeks of registration. The rates were 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than any offer in the market. However, no promises were kept and dream holiday never happened.
"Once a Make My Tour executive told me booking was done for a hotel in Fujairah but when we went there it wasn't. The executive told me to pay t full amount at the hotel, which would be reimbursed later. But I was duped," said Santhosh Rajamanickam, who paid Dh25,000 for a package.
The scammers don't leave anybody and sold packages with up to 90 per cent discount. "They offered me a package for Dh15,000 when I didn't agree, the rates dropped. To my shock, they finally offered the same package for Dh1,750," said Mohiyadhum Mubarak.
The victims, from different emirates, have formed a WhatsApp group and recently held a gathering to deliberate on the future course of action. "We want to create awareness. Our money is lost, we don't want anyone else to go through this agony," they said.
Khaleej Times contacted the company but operations in Abu Dhabi have been closed down.
Modus operandi of scammers
Babu M.K., who alllegedly lost Dh14,000 in the tour scam, said his doubts of foul play by the Make My Tour company turned into reality when all victims received an email with details of the modus operandi.
"Someone wrote to 200 or more victims informing about the fraud and that the mastermindis in Sharjah. The sender asked us to fight to get the money back. But these matters are always settled with postdated dud cheques. We have reached out to the DED, Indian Embassy and also sought legal assistance. The names of culprits we know are Amjith, Upasana, Manisha, Manoj and Vignesh.
Another company - Smiles for Miles - in Dubai is now operational with the same staff who duped us. The booking form of this new company still has the same contact details of Make My Tour," alleged Babu.
Karthik S., a resident of Fujairah, noted the entire operations happened in three months' time. "They would have shelled out Dh200,000 to Dh300,000 for their operations and made up to Dh2.5 million to Dh3 million. We are just a handful of the thousands who are being duped across the country."