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Monday Jan 21, 2013

More sad stories of holiday rental scams

North Coast holiday letting agent Tammy Cook, who allegedly fleeced holidaymakers through a "double booking" scam, was released on bail of R5 000 on Tuesday in the Stanger Magistrate's Court.

Cook was arrested after a story about the alleged scam in The Independent on Saturday, where holidaymakers had arrived at holiday homes in Salt Rock and Shaka's Rock to find other famiIies in the houses.

In some cases four families had paid deposits for the same house for the same period.

This week, yet another alleged victim from Gauteng, Eve Bleckert, contacted the newspaper claiming she had paid R21 000 to Cook after making her booking through holiday agency Safarinow.

"I paid the first deposit to Safarinow and then Cook contacted me and said the second part of the payment must be paid directly to her, which I did.

"Just before we were due to leave for our holiday, Safarinow phoned me and said Cook had disappeared.

"It's sad. People save up all year for their holiday," said Bleckert, who confirmed that Safarinow had refunded her.

Safarinow chief executive Matthew Swart confirmed they'd had "a few of our customers affected by the agency in question" and said they had either found alternative accommodation or fully reimbursed the clients.

"We take a zero tolerance approach to these practices. Thankfully it is not a common occurrence," said Swart.

Tourism's KZN spokesperson Lihle Dlamini said they had a database of registered establishments and travel service providers.

"It's always advisable to use establishments that are graded with the South African Grading Council. Also holidaymakers need to phone the local tourism authority to check if there's been cases of misappropriation with that particular establishment," said Dlamini.

Meanwhile The Independent on Saturday has received a slew of e-mails about holiday disasters involving other alleged agents. These include : Irene van Eyk:"We arrived on 26 December, 3 families and a total of 10 people, to find that we have been (sic) scammed with our holiday accommodation in Umdloti. We immediately reported it to the Durban North police station."

Van Eyk has yet to be refunded.

Theresa and Clarence Jennings: "We booked and paid R31 000 for holiday accommodation in Umhlanga, only to be told three days before going to Durban that we could no longer have the flat as it was flooded. This was untrue upon investigation."

The Jennings hired a private investigator, who tracked down the couple who had "let" the apartment.

They went to the couple's flat accompanied by the police and the couple agreed to pay the deposit back in three instalments, which has since been done.

Concerned agent: "Please advise all readers that in future, they should go onto the EEAB website (Estate Agency Affairs Board) to check whether an agent is legitimate and has a Fidelity Fund certificate."

The Independent on Saturday

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