Krystal Nikol never thought she’d fall victim to a scam.
Writing in a Facebook group for Bali tourists, Krystal was shocked to find many others in the same boat.
She had pre-booked tours and trips for herself and her husband with a highly recommended driver on a Facebook group for Bali tourists.
The driver demanded an advance payment. He had asked for a wire transfer, but Krystal refused and said she would pay on arrival in Bali.
The man then turned up at their hotel the day before the tour and demanded payment for two days of excursions and boat transfers for two. This totalled $300, which she paid.
She alleged that the man then cancelled the tours, stopped responding to any of their messages and did not refund them the money.
The Facebook group’s admin helped Krystal by getting in touch with the driver. He claimed his son was sick and said he would refund her, but he then blocked the admin as well.
“He seemed very nice and even wrote me a receipt but has since ignored all messages from me, and from admin [on the Facebook group], who gave him three chances to refund me before I made this post,” Krystal told news.com.au.
“It’s been six weeks since this incident and nothing’s come of it except my frustration, so I posted about it on two Bali Facebook pages, and the response had been huge. Nearly 1000 people have seen my posts in 24 hours and many have messaged him but he still has not contacted me.”
Krystal had regularly travelled to Bali and considered herself an experienced traveller.
“I first went to Bali on a solo backpacking trip from the USA (I’m American but now an expat living in Perth), and stopped into Bali,” she wrote on Facebook.
“I thought it was a beautiful, magical place. I met my husband there on that trip, and we return to Bali about twice a year since. We got married there too. We know the streets and neighbourhoods and feel very comfortable there.”
“This is the first time I’ve ever been scammed … my empathy and sense of morals led me to pay him in advance (as I’d done before); I had a gut feeling about him but ignored it because he came recommended so highly, but I see now I should have listened to that feeling.”
Her post shocked members of the Facebook group who had previously used the driver.
Many members said he had also used excuses such as needing money for his father’s funeral or cremation, or said he was sick in hospital when dealing with them, but others were shocked by the scam.
“That’s a shame,” one member wrote. “We used [his company] years ago and they were fantastic.”
“I’ve used [him] many times, sad to know he is no longer good news!” said another.
Mamamia has reached out to Krystal and the tour guide for comment.
How to avoid travel scams.
Travel Insurance Direct’s travel safety expert Ash Zaman recommends travellers avoid paying for tours in advance.
However if you need to pay ahead of time, there are ways to mitigate the risk.
“If you’re staying at a reputable hotel they will often sell tours through their front desk. Buying tickets upfront this way is much safer than buying tickets upfront from ticket hawkers around town.”
Make sure to research the tours and activities you are planning using websites such as TripAdvisor.
If possible, pay for tours using a credit card. If it is a scam, you can request a chargeback.
You can report scams to the police, but be weary that most travel insurance policies will not cover loses due to a scam.