PETALING JAYA - When Sarah Tan (not her real name) chanced upon a cheap Europe tour package from a local tour agency, she had a hunch that it was too good to be true.
The 11-day, nine-night tour with the company - known as Dulcet Travel & Tours - only cost about RM12,000 (S$4,000) for five people.
As it turned out, her suspicion was right. The company went underground after they paid the deposit for the holiday next month.
"My parents paid a deposit of RM4,000. We didn't pay the full amount because my father was uncertain if he could make the trip.
"We discovered it was a scam later when my mum tried to call the person-in-charge she had been liaising with, but his number wasn't working anymore," Tan, 25, told The Star.
The copywriter working in Singapore was also shocked to find out that the tour agency's website was no longer functioning and its Facebook page, which had good reviews, became inaccessible.
"We want a refund but until today, we have yet to hear anything from them," she said.
Tan was among some 30 individuals who lodged separate police reports after they realised they had been duped. It is believed they lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit between them.
They have now come together in a WhatsApp group to consider the next course of action.
One victim, who wanted to be known as Michael, said he booked a trip to Turkey with his wife for RM12,000.
He had exercised caution before committing to the tour, and yet he still lost his hard-earned money.
"I checked the company's background before making payment.
"It is registered under the Companies Commission of Malaysia and the Tourism Board of Malaysia. These were enough to convince me that it was a legitimate company," he said.
Michael, from Johor Baru, said they were told to pay about 30 per cent of the full fare on April 3 and settle the remaining by the end of July.
"When we contacted the company on July 9 to make full payment, none of them could be reached.
"Its website and Facebook page have been shut down. The guy that I was dealing with, Harry, also could not be reached," he said.
Another victim, who wanted to be known as Mohd Adeeb, said he booked a nine-day, eight-night trip to Japan for two and paid a deposit of RM5,000.
The full fare of RM9,000 was inclusive of meals, free entry to Disneyland and accommodation at a four-star hotel for two people.
"I was contacted by the agency through SMS a few days later, offering me a discount if I make immediate full payment.
"However, I was lucky that the company cancelled the trip and I was only charged RM300 per person. I was refunded the rest after a few days," he said.