Have I been scammed out of thousands by a fake travel agent?

I appear to have been scammed by a fake travel agent. Needing to get my wife and three children back from an emergency visit to Pakistan, I used a firm called Sevenseaholidays.co.uk to book Qatar Airways flights – for me to travel out, and for all of us to return.

Sevenseaholidays sent me two invoices to pay by bank transfer, into two different bank accounts. After I paid £1,180 I was given the reference numbers, and invited to check the reservation on the Qatar Airways website.

A few days later it emerged that people coming to the UK via Qatar would have to self-isolate in a hotel, so I called the company, and requested the reservations be changed to direct flights, for which I sent a further £983.

I was then told that I had paid the money into the wrong account, and that I would lose the flights unless I paid this sum again into the right bank account. I was promised a refund of the £983 overpayment, but this failed to materialise.

When it asked for a further £500 to provide the direct flights, I started to think this was a scam. I have since discovered that my Qatar flights had been cancelled, and British Airways has no record of my direct flight booking.

I reported it to my bank HSBC, which has refunded £590 of the £3,000 I’d paid, and to Action Fraud. However, the company still seems to be trading.

FR, London

Legitimate firms are usually happy to engage with us when we take up complaints like these, but Sevenseaholidays has not. I have called the firm twice and been cut off both times, and then found both of my phone numbers blocked. It has not responded to emails either.

The company, which advertises on Facebook and has an address in Blackpool, has been called out for falsely claiming to be a member of Abta. In February, a legitimate travel agent, World Travel Lounge, said it had reported the firm you bought your tickets from to Lancashire Constabulary, Action Fraud and the Civil Aviation Authority for fraudulently using its Atol licence.

Another travel agent with a similar name, 7SeasHolidays, has a warning on its website saying that it is in no way connected to Sevenseaholidays.

On the basis that you think you have been defrauded, you need to file an authorised push payment fraud claim with your bank. HSBC is one of the banks that has signed up to refund innocent victims of such scams. I have sent your letter on to HSBC, have explained the position, and will report back if it fails to refund you. You should contact Lancashire police too and local trading standards.

In the meantime, others need to be aware of what this firm is doing. It’s always worth Googling a firm you have never heard of before sending it any money – and being very wary of any firm that asks for bank transfers rather than the traditional card payments. Just as Money went to press, it emerged the City of London police had taken Sevenseaholidays’ website offline.

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