How To Spot Legit Agencies Amid Scams

Never let slippery offers damage your travel budget or to rob your precious vacation time because of scams. There are many types of tour packages posted online and you need a plan for each one. Then, make wise choices. 

While we're trying to get the cheapest tour packages being offered on Facebook or to other social media platforms, we must be mindful of many factors including travel tips and precautions to consider.

Let me help you save money on your next trip by pointing out signs of possible travel scams online. Unfortunately, the internet provides growth opportunities for illegal and unethical activities.

  • Make sure the tour and travel agency is legitimate. Checking the legitimacy of the travel agency should be the first thing you need to do. Scammers are all over the internet. Remember that. You need to be careful in choosing a travel agency. If you're transacting through Facebook or to any social media platform, ask for a copy of their DOT accreditation certificates and other business permits. It means they're not legit if they can't provide all of it.
  • Check the tour and travel agency's affiliations. A certain travel agency can be trusted if they are affiliated to hotels, airlines and other distinguished companies. Remember, companies doesn't want to ruin their reputation by working with scammers.
  • Check their website and social media accounts. The tour and travel agency's website provides a good impression about the company. Their website should look professional. Check out the history of the company including notices, announcements and disclosures. The number of followers on their social media accounts is another factor to consider. If they're being followed by thousands of people, then the company might have done something amazing. 
  • Look for feedback online. Most tour and travel agencies has Facebook Pages. Take time checking their pages. Do they have a 5-star rating? If this option isn't available, ask the travel groups like DIY Philippines, Byaheng Budgetarian, Always On The Road, Climber among others. Customers would most likely leave a feedback regarding their trip and about the service of the travel agency. I've read several posts on Facebook regarding a travel agency deleting negative comments and feedback about their service. Check that out too.
  • Look at their process in dealing with customers. Do they have good customer service? Do you find it smooth and easy when dealing with them? Are you asking a lot of questions and processes regarding the tour they're offering? Remember: an efficient travel agency won't ask too much because everything you need is all there. They should be able to provide you the travel requirements, mode of payments, contracts and many other concerns.
  • The tour and travel agency should be available 24/7. This is very important folks. The tour and travel agency should be contacted in case you might encounter some issues while on travel. Your travel agency can address your needs all the time.
  • Go over their rates. How much are they charging you? What are the inclusions in your package? Is it worth the price? Ask for a quotation then compare the rates from one travel agency to another. Doing this allows you to save money. Please be vigilant when it comes to hidden charges. Ask them to provide you a contract if necessary.

Last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) urged the public to only transact with travel agencies that are accredited by the agency. The announcement was made following the complaints of scammed 60 Philippine Airlines passengers bound for Japan. DOT through the local government can revoke the business permit of the violating company and can shut down the operations of erring travel agencies.


Based on the DOT Memorandum Circular No. 2015-06, the tour and travel agencies are expected to submit a valid Mayor's/Business Permit and a proof of working capital amounting to Php 500,000 including an original copy of bank certification with cheque writer. 

For the General Manager, he/she should be able to provide documents proving a minimum of three years managerial experience in travel and tour agency operations or a proof of passing a Travel and Tour Agency Management Course or its equivalent. The tour and travel agency is also required to submit a notarized list of names of all officials and employees with office designations and nationalities.

For renewing tour and travel agency, the company is required to provide a valid Mayor's/Business Permit and an audited financial statements reflecting a minimum Php 500,000 working capital.

  • Advance payment without a written contract. Usually, advance payment is required before the trip. However, you are entitled to a written contract stating you made a payment whether it's a deposit or payment in full.
  • Frequent use of words such as 'complimentary' and 'free'. Remember that very few people offer complimentary items without strings attached. 
  • Hints of Split Pricing. Reputable travel agencies will offer tours that says "from" or "starting at" a certain price. Also, they provide you the available upgrades. 
  • Offers to make you a travel agent.
  • A price far below the market value.
  • Hotel Names, Airlines and other vendors not disclosed in writing
  • Different names for travel provider and sellers
  • Offering a "Limited Time Only".
  • Transactions that can only be done through phone