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Hundred others in several Gulf states also fall prey
KUWAIT CITY, April 30: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has received dozens of complaints from citizens and residents regarding their exposure to fraud from a famous flight ticket booking platform that claims to be based in the State of Kuwait, and has an official landline number using which it advertises and promotes its services and products, reports Al- Qabas daily. This is happening at a time when a large segment of citizens and residents in the country are preparing to book flight tickets to take advantage of the long Eid Al-Fitr holidays to travel outside the country.
According to informed sources, the fraud and swindling through the website were not limited to citizens and residents of Kuwait, but extended to other countries also, as hundreds of citizens and residents in Gulf countries and others fell into the same trap.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry received emails from victims abroad who sought help from the ministry for the return of their money from the ticketing platform, given that the website specialized in booking travel tickets is supposedly based in Kuwait and has a Kuwait landline number for customer service. Since it has a government line, it means that the number is licensed by Kuwait’s Ministry of Communications. The sources affirmed that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is currently coordinating with the Public Authority for Communications and Information Technology to take measures against the website, which may amount to stopping and blocking it, and canceling the Kuwaiti landline that it uses to trap customers
They explained that individuals who book airline tickets through international ticket booking websites first select the travel destination and the date of the trip. They then are given the option to pay through a number of booking platforms that appear to them. Often, the website, which claims to be based in Kuwait, is the cheapest. The customer has to book the tickets and pay their value. One or two days before the date of his trip, he either receives a call or an email is sent to him with the notification that the ticket prices have increased, and he has to either pay the price difference, which ranges between 10 to 30 percent of the total ticket amount, or cancel his reservations.
In this case, the customer usually has no choice but to submit to blackmail and pay the difference in the value of the tickets. In the event that the victim requests to cancel the reservation, he is promised the return of the value of his tickets, which were deducted from his bank account, within a week. When he calls the customer service number, he is informed that there is a problem or delay in repayment. Hundreds of customers, and perhaps even thousands, have not recovered their money from this company for nine or more months, as the ticketing platform is betting on the customer’s boredom from calling or begging them to recover their money! The sources said, “When the customer sees a Kuwaiti landline number on the website, he will certainly come to the conclusion that the platform belongs to an officially licensed Kuwaiti company, as the Ministry of Communications cannot grant a landline number to a company without official licenses.
When customers, who booked flight tickets through this platform, call the landline number for customer service, and ask for the company’s address to visit it to receive their money, they receive the response that the company does not have an administrative headquarters or office in Kuwait, and that the customer service is managed from one of the Arab countries. Thus, the Kuwaiti customer service number is nothing but a “pedal” line to receive customer calls only.
This platform, which is based in one of the Arab countries, became active after the opening of airlines and the demand for people to travel with the easing of movement restrictions. Currently, it may take advantage of the Eid al-Fitr holiday season to inflict more victims”. The sources called on citizens and residents to ensure the reliability of the website before completing reservations, and to deal only with the approved websites and official airlines, or the aviation offices spread throughout the country, in order to avoid falling into the trap of such electronic platforms that “eat people’s money”.