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Phony Travel Agent Steals Thousands From Unsuspecting Victims


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By Jessica Zickefoose, TravelPulse

A Clearwater woman has been arrested after being accused of scamming thousands of dollars out of unsuspecting hopeful travelers while posing as an independent travel agent. According to an arrest report and ABC Action News, Sharell Ortiz was posting flyers on Facebook offering her services to help give families the vacation they’d been longing for.

One woman, Xvira Hillmon, said she planned on taking a cruise to the Bahamas with her cousins as a family reunion. She said her family gave Ortiz an undisclosed amount of money while she herself gave her at least $1,000.

According to the arrest report, Ortiz was accepting cash or checks and using two different PayPal accounts to receive the money. A subpoena for her PayPal account yielded $3,375 under the name ‘BOOKWITHSHARELL.’

Victims had no idea they were duped until the day before they were set to leave. As stated in the arrest report, Ortiz would cancel the cruise the day before departure and would then use a phony credit card to book it.
Believe it or not, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Many people hand over their hard-earned money while believing someone is really who they say they are. Those interested in travel need to be more aware of what to look for when booking with an independent travel agent.

Many agents specialize in a particular niche and are very knowledgeable about a specific destination. Whether you’re interested in an all-inclusive package, a cruise, or family-friendly destinations, look for an agent who can offer you tips and advice, spends a lot of time getting to know you and asks the right questions.

A good and dedicated travel agent will be there at your disposal. They want your repeat business and they want to keep you as a client. They’ll spend time tying up any loose ends and making sure you’re satisfied with all the options you’ve chosen.

Make sure you read the fine print. A lot of times deals seem too good to be true—and a lot of the time they are. No one wants to be suckered out of the cash they’ve put their sweat and tears into earning. If you ever feel uneasy or get a gut feeling that something isn’t right, keep searching until you find that perfect agent for you that puts your mind completely at ease.


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Travel - U.S. Daily News: Phony Travel Agent Steals Thousands From Unsuspecting Victims
Phony Travel Agent Steals Thousands From Unsuspecting Victims
Travel - U.S. Daily News
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