The delegate from The Ivory Coast and dealing with fraud. Travelstart stories 8/30


When it
comes to fraud, people are very clever and industrious. Especially in Africa. I
think if the people in these countries would pour the same energy and
creativity into building companies as they do in swindling, there would be no
poverty on the African continent.

came in contact with African fraudsters very early when starting up. I think our
first major case was back in 2001. We received a charge back from the bank of
2500€. I walked up to my bank and asked what the hell this was about. I said
there surely must be something that could be done. The answer was simple. YOU PAY!

I cried on
my way back to the office. I couldn’t believe that someone would do such a
thing. We flipped through the history of the booking and surely enough my staff
had pi.jpgcked up there was something fishy. We had received a fax copy of the card
as well as a fax form with personal details address etc. It was all there. The
passenger was in Stockholm staying at Sheraton when doing the booking. We found
out because this was in the days when you still had to deliver a physical
ticket. I called Sheraton and informed them about the fraud and asked if they
knew anything. Apparently the man had been in Stockholm for a water conference
at the time. He was a delegate from the Ivory Coast. Sheraton had also been
defrauded of some 2000€ including room, in room movies, room service and a
large bar bill. The Sheraton people where very friendly. I called the people at
the water conference surely enough they had also been defrauded by the same
man. Actually I was told that there was a whole delegation from the same
country. All paid with bogus cards.

I dug
deeper and found that the phone number on the fax form was to a prepaid cell
phone number in the UK belonging to a “travel agency” that specialised in deeply
discounted travel all over the place. The business model was brilliant: Sell
travel, get paid and pay suppliers with stolen credit cards. Now why didn’t I
ever think of that?

I traced
down the “travel agent”. Ha was as arrogant as only an African crook can be. “Oh
no problem” he said giving me a new card number, which we charged. At this time
I had no idea he was lying, or rather I was living in denial, or hope, or both.

After a
while we got another charge back. I got furious and called him back. I was then
promised a huge amount of business if I wanted to “cooperate”. He then faxed me
a three-page list containing some 140 trips to be booked in business class all
around the world. Travel was going to take place within the next 24 hours. I
could have all this business he said. I decided to meet with him to discuss
further “business”.

I involved
the bank, the police, Visa and MasterCard. I told them we had the meeting set
up. Showed them documents etc. But here’s the paradox. They did NOTHING.
NOTHING. They were not even interested. The case with delegate from Abidjan and
the bogus agency in London was never solved and they are probably still operating
today with a fabulous EBITDA.  

eventually had some type of revenge on these type of guys. One chap bought a
trip on an American Express card to Bangkok. My colleague, Martina, recognized the
name and called American Express, who in turn called the police. The whole
family was arrested at Arlanda Airport as they were checking in on Thai Airways.
From the beach to the borstal. That was a very happy moment.

The Amex
case learned us some harsh fact about how differently companies handle fraud; Visa/MasterCard
does nothing Amex acts proactively. We have later had this confirmed lot of
times. Cyber fraud is the biggest threat to the digital economy. Yet banks and
credit card companies does little and nothing about it.

In Africa
charge backs are quite common. Not only the archetype fraudster but any Johnson,
Van Rensburg and Mhotlantle now do charge backs when; they change their minds
on a trip, when they have found another alternative, when their mother is sick
or when the dog has flees. Such is the law of the jungle. We paid dearly when setting
up shop in South Africa.

A South
African airline has their own cyber squad. They come knocking on your door when
you try tricks with them. And people pay when these guys show up.

Right now
our company is dealing with PCI compliance. Its systems, and processes in order
to make the banks more secure about how we handle peoples credit card numbers.
At the same time I can log in to Nedbanks iVery system and download all credit
card numbers that have purchased from us the last 8 months and choose if I want
them in PDF or word format. Wonder why they don’t have a “share on Twitter”
button as well.


Our Readers Comments

  1. I appreciate the labor you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

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