Deferment of new Immigration Regulations Implementation

The Association of Southern African Travel Agents has welcomed Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s announcement today that the new immigration regulations that require South African travellers to apply for unabridged birth certificates to travel internationally with their children under the age of 18 due to come in to effect on 1 October 2014,have been deferred until end May 2015.

The deferment comes following months of fervent lobbying by ASATA and its trade association partners in South Africa, including meetings with both the Minister and Deputy Minister, letters to the Ministry and opinion pieces in the press, to raise awareness of the negative impact these new immigration regulations would have on the travel and tourism sectors and the shortfalls in the ability of Home Affairs to meet their own objectives regarding various amendments to the Immigration Act.

Since the regulations were announced on May 22, 2014, ASATA has been working relentlessly to drive engagement with the Ministry and outbound travel sector to ensure better understanding of the issues, practical implications and minimal confusion and disruption to the travelling public.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to address our concerns with Minister Gigaba regarding the impact of these new immigration regulations and pleased that these concerns have been heard and reacted to in this way.

“We look forward to engaging with the department over the next few months to find a suitable solution for all parties involved including the appointment of a joint government industry task team that will work to fully understand the objectives, identify international best practice and how these should be implemented effectively for SA. We also need to devise and roll-out a global public awareness and information campaign,” says ASATA CEO Otto de Vries.

Help! I’ve been scammed!

You’ve memorised all the red flags for fraud, you’ve heeded the warning signs, and still you got scammed. Unfortunately it happens. Fraudsters are becoming increasingly inventive and even the best prepared travel agent can fall into their trap.

What should you do now? Take a deep breath and follow these steps to minimise the damage.

Tell your colleagues

If you found out you’ve been defrauded, it is important to take immediate action to limit the damages and try and recover as much funds as possible.

Alert your colleagues and/or office manager about what has happened. Firstly, they will give you much-needed support and advice and secondly, they should be aware that the company has been targeted to avoid making any further bookings for the fraudster.

In the latest travel scam that occurred, fraudsters targeted the travel agent’s corporate accounts. If this is the case, check with your corporate account and alert them as well of the suspicious transactions.

Also make contact with ASATA. They will be able to assist with advice and support. They will also be able to alert the travel industry about the syndicate or fraudster.

Phone the bank

After you’ve alerted your colleagues, immediately contact the bank and ask for the fraud department. Most banks and credit card companies have specific processes in place to report fraud. They’ll assist you to stop the transaction.

Try to be as specific as possible and provide the bank with all the details you have. Pass on card details, addresses, names and all information you may have on the fraudster.

Contact the airline

Make contact with the airline and any other service providers to cancel all air tickets, hotel reservations and/or car rental bookings. Ask the airline to blacklist future tickets for travel for the fraudster.

If the fraudster is to travel the same day, try to contact the specific airline at the airport and speak to an official to advise that a fraudulent transaction has taken place.  Give them the airline ticket details, so that they can stop the passenger from travelling.

Appoint a forensic investigator

For any further action, it is a good idea to appoint a forensic investigator to assist you. Make sure you hire an accredited forensic investigator who is also a certified fraud examiner.

When appointing an investigator, it is also important to make sure he/she has an intricate knowledge of the travel industry, as well as a good working relationship with the SAPS. The police are often unaware of the details associated with travel booking processes and it can be difficult to explain this to them. A forensic investigator who understands both the travel industry and the SAPS can be worth his weight in gold in situations like this.

A trustworthy practitioner will provide you with:

  • An upfront quote
  • A summary of the amount of hours he/she will spend on the case
  • A detailed plan of the action he/she is planning to undertake to recover your funds and mitigate any further risk

A good place to start when looking for an investigator is the Institute of Commercial Forensic Practitioners (ICFP).

Be wary of private investigators, who charge outrageous upfront deposits.

Sign an affidavit

Together with the Forensic or Fraud Investigator, set out a signed affidavit with all the details of all the parties included. The Investigator will assist you in building a strong Prima Facie case by obtaining statements or affidavits from the relevant parties and gathering the relevant information, which will be annexed to the affidavit as proof and evidence. He/she will make sure it is done thoroughly to ensure a good strong case.

Report the case to the police

The investigator will then assist in registering a case docket with the relevant police station. It is imperative to share as much details of the fraudster as possible i.e clear and confirmed copy of passport or I.D, hand written note for handwriting analysis and full contact details. This will be used to trace the alleged fraudster.

Whatever you do: stay safe!

Although it is better to have as much information as possible on the fraudster, always first consider your safety and that of your staff. Don’t ask the fraudster to come into the office in an attempt to obtain more information from him/her. Don’t get involved in any way with the fraudster without the help of the police!

If you’re faced with the fraudster

If you are making a booking for a client who is either in the office or on the phone, and you suspect something is wrong, don’t make the transaction. Instead, call your bank and ask for a CODE 10 authorisation. If possible keep the client’s credit card in your possession. You will be asked a series of yes/no questions that will reveal to the bank that you think you’re dealing with a fraudster but won’t raise suspicion for the client sitting in front of you that you’re ringing the alarm bell.

Avoid common fraud traps…

The best way to avoid fraud is to memorise the red flags that could indicate a scam and double-check any customer who shows ‘red flags’.

However, here are some tips and tricks that you can use as a travel agent to dodgy those dodgies:

Google is your friend

Although not foolproof, Google Maps will help determine whether an address is real or just an empty lot. The information might not always be 100% perfect, but at least a review of the cardholder’s information can assist in your review of whether or not the transaction may be suspect and require further investigation.

http://www.google.com/ or  http://maps.google.com/maps

Credit Card must-dos

  1. Never process payments on a credit card without having the card/s present at the time of the transaction
  2. Check signature against original card/s
  3. Obtain required authorisation
  4. Take an imprint of the card – A FAX COPY IS NOT AN IMPRINT
  5. Ensure validity of expiry date and check that security features appear on the card
  6. Please be warned: Any invalid expiry dates entered for approval through one of the Global Reservations Systems that results in a fraudulent transaction, will be charged back to the agency
  7. A great way to check whether the card is valid is to check the issuing bank of the card on https://www.bindb.com/bin-database.html

Authorisation alone is not enough

Although travel agents should always obtain an authorisation code for a credit card transaction, this code only indicates that the cardholder is in good standing with the bank (and is usually supplied automatically) but is no guarantee of payment.

It simply verifies that there are sufficient funds in the account. It can’t confirm the identity of the cardholder, or guarantee that the card and/or transaction are genuine.

Having said that, travel agents should always get an imprint of the credit card as well as obtain an authorisation number. Failing to do so will result in charge backs and the travel agent will then be liable to settle the loss due to fraudulent transactions.

This warning extends to the larger travel agencies issuing on behalf of agents who do not have IATA licenses. Failing to comply with the above will also result in the issuing agent being held liable for any loss incurred.

Don’t skimp on the paperwork 

Never get complacent when it comes to paperwork. It could safe the agency a lot of money. Travel agents should always ask for an identity document or passport and take a copy of the document.

Beware the fraudsters!

The ugly face of fraud continues to rear its head from time to time in the travel industry and this time it appears to be in the form of a host of scammers posing as staff from international offices of South African corporates contacting their respective TMCs for travel arrangements.

Concerning is how these fraudsters know which TMCs are linked to the corporates they are pretending to work for, but there are many other examples of fraud that can hit your agency, no matter what size, or how vigilant you remain.

Never fear though. There are definitely some red flags you should be watching out for:

 

Know your client

Agents report receiving emails and telephone calls from unknown persons requesting airline tickets and using credit cards as the form of payment.

Mostly, the email sender or caller requests tickets for someone other than himself. They identify themselves as a large corporation wanting to establish a corporate account with you.

Beware of departure and destination

Fraudsters tend to opt for a departure airport that is not local to the travel agency or is an international departure. Destinations will often include high-risk airports such as Accra, Lagos, Abidjan or even Sao Paulo.

When it comes to domestic-only itineraries, the caller will often use a story to entice you to want to provide the service (i.e., grandchild just born, death in the family, etc.).

Timing is everything

Requests for immediate travel or travel within a few days of the reservation from new customers should always raise a Red Flag and agents need to be careful about issuing tickets for these types of bookings.

Don’t trust jargon

Double-check customers who use travel agency lingo like “JNB” rather than Johannesburg in their emails rather than the name of the city.

When price is not an issue

Fraudsters are usually quite casual about price of the flights, no matter how exorbitant, or about the price of the service fee.

Free e-mail addresses

Don’t trust travel demands made from a free, web-based, email, address, which is also often not traceable. Often when dealing with demands from web-based e-mail addresses, the name on the e-mail address is totally different from the name signed at the end of the e-mail.

Spell-check

Scammers tend to use poor English. Their e-mails are often badly written with numerous spelling mistakes and tend to be short and to the point.

It’s all in the name

Fraudsters often create email addresses similar to legitimate corporations and dupe agency staff into believing they work at the corporation.  As an example, fraudsters can create an email address like xyzcorp-us.com, while the proper corporate client address is xyzcorp.com to make the agent believe they’re dealing with legitimate employees.

Check the card

Most fraudulent customers will opt for 3rd party credit cards, and will rarely be the actual cardholder. The same card will also be used for different passengers and routings.

With much of South Africa's outbound travel focused on African destinations, the recent Ebola outbreak has raised some concerns among business travellers preparing to do business within the continent.

The 2014 outbreak is one of the largest in history and currently affects several countries in West Africa, including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So severe is this particular outbreak, that several airlines have cancelled their outbound flights to affected destination, while countries like Kenya and Botswana are on high alert and have instituted measures to secure their borders against the threat of the Ebola spread. Corporate travel is largely being suspended or delayed, unless essential.

The South African government for its part has taken measures to enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals, designate health facilities for the treatment of Ebola patients, deployed personal protective equipment to designated facilities, conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a hotline for clinicians through the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

Countries have been divided into three risk categories with measures such as travel bans for all non-citizens from high-risk countries or strict screening process for South African citizens returning from these countries.

The situation is evolving quickly and ASATA will continue to monitor it in detail so as to ensure our members are kept informed on the latest educated advice. We therefore recommend that all concerned travellers liaise with their ASATA Accredited Travel Agency or Travel Management Company before confirming their travel plans.

The World Health Organization recommends that all contact be avoided with Ebola patients and their bodily fluid. Do not touch anything, such as shared towels, which could have become contaminated in a public place.

Symptoms of the disease include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. The incubation period, i.e. the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.

Fast Facts:

  • Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90%
  • Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads through human-to-human transmission
  • No licenced specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals

Useful Links:

Immigration Regulations: Quick Guide

Confusion surrounding the Immigration Regulations is growing and ASATA has posed several questions on behalf of its members to the DHA. Frustratingly nobody is responding and as the DHA are the implementers and enforcers of the policies related to the changes to the Immigration Act, we cannot comment without their input and are currently forced to send people to the DHA website or to contact their nearest DHA office to get clarity on this matter. However, we have compiled this handy quick guide in an effort to provide you with some answers and will update it as and when ASATA receives a response to our questions.

The issuance of any passport, visa-relevant document, government papers, are at the discretion of the official concerned and is beyond the control of ASATA and its members.  It should also be noted that consulates do not give out any third party information and therefore it does make it difficult for ASATA to make appeals on the travellers’ behalf.

FAQs

Q: Can we carry a copy of the unabridged birth certificate?

A: According to the Immigration Act and the rules in section 12 (a) parents or the parent, or accompanying adult can carry a COPY of the unabridged birth certificate. ASATA cannot confirm however whether this should be a certified copy, but we would suggest as a cautionary measure do ensure the copy is certified.

Q:  For travellers departing before the end of September but arriving back after the October deadline will they (the child) require an unabridged birth certificate? 

A: According to various media reports and as stated by Minister Gigaba, Home Affairs will not be making any concessions. We therefore have to assume that in this case you will need to have the necessary documentation on hand.

Please see the Immigration Act extract here relevant to unabridged birth certificates. Details are included within this section, giving the examples of two parents accompanying the child, or single parents or guardians and the documentation that is required.

Q: Can clients with dual citizenship, i.e. SA and British passports still travel with both passports?

A: For details and questions related to Dual Citizenship or Dual passport holders, please refer to the : Civic Services section. The Immigration Section also has information on temporary and permanent residence that may assist with information related to dual citizenship.

It should be noted that there are some countries that do not allow dual citizenship and one would need to check such details with that ‘foreign’ country’s relevant government department

Q: Where can I find information on the documents required by Home Affairs?

A: Check the Help Section where all the documents that are required with the number of the document/s are listed, however, no documents can be downloaded from the site and one has to go into the nearest Home Affairs office in order to obtain the documents.

Check online for the accompanying documents you require, including getting passports or identity document size photos, and try to get all the documents together before you apply.

Q: Where can I find information about the services provided by VFS?

A: Visit www.vfsglobal.com/dha/southafrica/ for a full list of all the VFS offices in South Africa, including a link where travellers can apply online. Contact infodhasa@vfshelpline.com or 012 425 5300 for details.

CONTACT DETAILS:

Births, Marriage & Deaths, Passports & Citizenship: 

Norman Ramashia
Tel: 012 402 2169
Cell: 082 903 7518
Email: norman.ramashia@dha.gov.za

Aaron Ramodumo
Email: Aaron.Ramodumo@dha.gov.za

DDG Civic Services:

Vusumuzi Mkhize
Tel: 012 300 8661
Cell: 082 317 3080
Email: vusumuzi.mkhize@dha.gov.za

DDG Immigration Services:

Jackie McKay
Tel: 012 406 2697
Cell: 082 422 8998
Email: Jackie.mckay@dha.gov.za

Disclaimer: The above FAQs should be regarded as a GUIDELINE ONLY. For full details and answers to any questions pertaining to the new immigration regulations, please visit www.dha.gov.za

Fraud strikes SA Agents yet again…

ASATA agencies are being cautioned to be extra vigilant as a new form of fraud rears its head; this time masquerading as travel requests from fraudsters posing as employees of agencies’ legitimate corporate customers.

In the particular cases ASATA has been privy to: agencies have been contacted by legitimate representatives of their corporate customers unknowingly on behalf of fraudsters posing as an employee of the company’s overseas branch, or by actual fraudsters who pose as an employee of a legitimate corporate customer requiring travel arrangements.

The concern is that these fraudsters in both cases appear to know which travel agency services that corporate’s travel account.

The email addresses used do not raise suspicion as they are similar to that of the corporates’ email and travel requests are predominantly last-minute and urgent, for short periods of time and made for individuals with ‘strange’ surnames.

ASATA members are reminded to remain vigilant and if any irregularities are obvious to double check with the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify that it is in fact genuine.

Please also note that ASATA will be creating a useful Infographic and Quick Guide detailing common fraudulent activities and the process to follow when an agency has been defrauded in the coming weeks.

Should you have any examples, comments or feedback you would like to see included, please do not hesitate to contact us: Natalia@bigambitions.co.za