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A travel agent con artist attempting steal thousands of euros

In the spring and summer of 2016 I was in touch with four scammers: horse riding lessons scammer Victor Smith, event scammer Michelle Dormanen, art scammer Albert Spencer and wedding scammer Anthony Martinex. I played around with them, made them think I was falling for their scam, then burst their balloon at the bitter end and told them no, I was not going to send them thousands of euros, pounds, dollars or whatever.

Please don’t let any scammers know about this web page! The objective here is to make these miscreants waste their time on people like me who haven’t been fooled for a second, distracting them from baiting others who might fall for their scam.

On September 15th 2017 I received a message from “Richard Matt”, where he asked me about accommodations and didn’t specify anything about where or of what kind. This inquiry is wildly ridiculous because I’m a photographer and have nothing to do with hotels, real estate or accommodations.

Elite Travel Agency’s home page

Elite Travel Agency’s home page, hacked together with insipidly banal clipart and just four links leading to other pages on their site: “About us”, “UK Visas”, “Quote request” and “etagencyltd@gmail.com

The only connection might be that I photograph apartments regularly and Mr. Matt might have found me by searching Google for apartment, Paris, accommodations, or who knows what. He has to be completely boneheaded to think I manage hotels after looking at a page about me following his search on Paris and apartments.

I searched eltravelagency.com on Google and somewhere after the first half-dozen results I found a page in Greek saying the site is run by scammers: “Hotels accept reservations from a distance (via e-mail) in which prolific “agents” ask them to charge cards whose data have been intercepted by the actual owners themselves and then requested the business to assign their commission via Western Union, or by way of remittance in order, as they claim, to send them other reservations. Bookings are mostly made from the following travel agencies: Elite Travel Agency…they request that the commission be sent by wire transfer to a bank account in England (Halifax & Barclays)”.

A few more results after that I found two more pages in Greek saying basically the same thing. Checking WhoIs records on the site shows that it was created on October 10th 2016 and will expire on October 10th 2017. I don’t know much about about domain name longevity though I imagine this is further evidence that the site is a fly-by-night affair and has only been created to make Elite Tours Agency appear to be a real and bona fide business.

Here’s the story so far:


9/15/2017

Subject: Accommodation Inquiry

From: Richard Matt, <etagency@ukadvisors.com>

Hi,

I write to confirm if there are available rooms for a group of 6 people for 7 nights starting from Oct 23rd to Oct 30th, 2017. We want 6 single rooms or 6 double rooms

This is an official trip. Please send over quotation if you can accommodate them for the period

Awaiting your response,
Richard Matt

This message is hopelessly non-sequitur because he hasn’t specified in which city he needs the accommodations, or what quality he’s interested in: budget, mid-range or luxury. So for the fun of it I assumed “he’s interested” in high-end lodgings in Paris, and wrote back:


Hello Richard,

Thank you for writing! Certainly I have rooms available for your group in that last week of October. The rooms in my hotel are luxurious and offer the utmost in comfort with wonderful views over the city of Paris.

You may make reservations at 300 euros per night, please don't hesitate to ask further questions, and do keep me posted as your travel plans to Paris take shape!

All the best,
David


9/16/2017

From: "Elite Travels" <etagencyltd@gmail.com>

Thanks for your response

I'm happy to inform you that we are prepared to affirm the reservation. In any case, before that, I have a few inquiries, kindly discover them beneath:

Do you accept credit card?

Due to past experience, we want to make full payment now, will that be accepted?

We have arranged an agency fee of 45% of total rental fee with our clients as our commission so you need to increase your room rate to accommodate that. Could you please send us another quotation with our commission so we can send it over to our customers?

We get our commission when you get the full payment, I trust that won't be an issue with you

NOTE: we have worked things out with our clients and we can assure that there won't be any cancellation once the reservation is fully confirmed

Please let us know if you are still interested in making the reservation for us base on the above stated conditions.

Best Regards,

Richard Matt
Elite Travel Agency

T020 323 95851 Address: Flat 7 White Hill House,
F020 814 47507 53-55 Balham Hill
Eetagencyltd@gmail.com London, SW12 9DR
Elite Travel Agency logo

Hello Richard,

I’m very pleased you have chosen us for your accommodation needs in Paris! We can indeed accept payment by bank card through PayPal.

There’s no problem with full payment ahead of time, or a 50% downpayment a week before is fine also. Adding your agency fee of 45% to the room rate of 300 euros per night results in a daily fee of 435 euros.

For six rooms this amounts to 2,610 euros per night and for eight nights, October 23rd to the 30th, the total is 20,880 euros. I’ll be happy to transfer your commission of 45% on receipt of your payment and I’m reassured by your level of professionalism in that there will be no cancellation once the reservation is confirmed.

Please let me know if you have further questions or need additional information…

All the best,
David

To be continued…? Towards the end of December 2017 I received an idiotic e-mail from Peter Tetteh, asking me to purchase airplane tickets for him.


The mailbox

10/2/2017

Hi David

We too have had the same contact from Richard Matt. I have played along with it this last days. He has now sent us the credit card numbers to be charged.. Have you had any further correspondence?. If I was in the UK I would forward it to the police as his company name is supposedly based in London. But im in SE Asia now working.

I figured out it was a scam after trying to call him as I had my suspicions the way he conducted his business. What travel agency works like this. The fool! Do people actually fall for this!?

What's your advice? Have you notified police?

Thanks for posting your blog.

Kindest regards
Dawn Mia Renne


Hello Mia,

I haven’t heard from Richard Matt for two weeks now, since September 15th. I had three exchanges from him, then... nothing, I don’t know why. It might be that he did a bit more research on me and saw that I’m a photographer, have nothing to do with hotels or providing accommodations in Paris, and was likely playing around with him.

It could be that he had someone else “gathering leads” who (obviously) isn’t very competent. He took my info provided by the lead provider, wrote me a few times, then decided to search information about me for himself once I appeared to be falling for his scam, and decided I wasn’t worth pursuing.

I doubt that contacting the police would help much, it doesn’t matter much that you or I are not in England because “Richard Matt” probably isn’t either and English police wouldn’t be able to find Mr. Matt, do anything about him or whatever.

I imagine that people do indeed fall for scams like Mr. Matt’s, that’s why it’s important that anyone who’s been contacted by him and haven’t been fooled write web pages that others can find by searching Google.

I don’t have any advice, have fun and play around with him if you feel like it, write about experience on web pages that can be found on Google…

All the best,
David

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