Beware: scammers! How to avoid being scammed when renting a bus
Ordering a bus is a service that provides for booking and making an advance payment. We also ask our customers to pay a deposit (20% of the order amount), because we met with pranksters who called the bus and disappeared. But sometimes clients come to us who have made an advance payment, and their “carrier” successfully disappeared with the money on the eve of the trip. There was a case when the client was shown the bus in person, they took an advance payment and disappeared. As a rule, we are talking about impressive amounts. Once, a travel agency suffered this way: a false carrier was transferred 100% of the payment for renting a bus for 50 seats for a New Year’s trip to the Carpathians. But most often, leaders of children’s groups and parents who book a bus for a trip on an excursion or go on tour fall into their trap. In addition to giving the money collected to the scammers, customers also find themselves in an extreme situation when they urgently need to find a bus for a trip (sometimes in a few hours).
And recently, when looking for a counterparty in Uzhgorod, we were lucky enough to personally encounter a swindler who pretended to be a carrier. And we, with all our experience in this area, had doubts only at the stage of a thorough check of documents before sending an advance payment. The fraudster clearly worked or is working in the field of passenger transportation. Below we will post a photo of supposedly his buses, although, most likely, he will soon replace them. Let’s share our experience to verify the “authenticity” of the carrier.
How to understand that they want to deceive you when ordering a bus
1. Always ask for a photo of the bus
First, just ask for a photo of the bus. After they are sent, ask for more. Already at this stage, fraud can be detected. Feel free to ask to take a photo of the trunk, seats, the outside of the bus in full face and profile. Most likely, the scammer will start to get out, because he does not have a bus and there is nothing to photograph. Or send photos taken on another bus. Also, be sure to check the images on Google, use search by image, there are dedicated apps for iOS and Android. See where else photos of this bus are posted, it can be the carrier’s website or a site like Flagma.ua, where you will find the contact details of the legal entity that owns the bus and contact him for authentication. If you find exactly the same photo on a foreign site for the sale of cars – 100% you have encountered a scammer.
In our case, photo search by photo showed only ads on OLX. And that was a little strange for a multi-bus owner.
2. Check Mrs. bus number from photo
A very convenient service for this is the website Photobus. You need to enter the bus number (with spaces) and you will immediately get a lot of information on it, including a photo. Here you can also find information about the company that owns the bus (unfortunately, it is not always available). Check if the bus in the photo matches the one sent to you, is the region indicated on the site? Sometimes the region may not match, it happens that the carrier does not work at the place of registration, but quite rarely. Unfortunately, not all buses can be found on the photobase.
Our “potential partner” covered up the numbers on the photo. This is quite common among bus owners: for various reasons, the owners do not want to “shine” numbers. But upon request, they always say them. We did not ask for numbers, because we decided to immediately check the documents.
3. Check the legal entity of the carrier
Be sure to ask to send copies of the carrier’s documents: license for passenger transportation and certificate of registration of a legal entity (most often this is a FOP). Check them with the data obtained in paragraphs 1 and 2, does everything match? Be sure to ask to send you a copy of the insurance and license card for the bus – these documents always indicate the state number of the bus – check if it matches the number in the photo.
There is a pitfall here: a fraudster can simultaneously communicate with a real carrier under the guise of a potential client. And he will ask him for all these documents for you. Therefore, we are looking for the official contacts of the carrier through the services minjust or youcontrol. If the contact details do not match those that you have, call the official contacts and find out if the carrier is aware that they are communicating on his behalf about your trip. Contacts may not match – the dispatcher can communicate with you, but the carrier will always be aware of the planned trip.
Our fake counterparty sent us the documents of a carrier we had previously worked with. We contacted him and learned that his documents had already been repeatedly used by scammers. And that he hears about this trip for the first time. Tadaam!
4. The easiest and most reliable way: immediately ask for payment by bank transfer
Even if you pay in cash, warn the carrier from the very beginning that you are paying by bank transfer, excluding VAT (not all legal entities can work with VAT). Ask the carrier for details for issuing an invoice. Most likely, the amount will be slightly more than for cash settlement (+ 6-10%). If you were sent details and they match the data in the license and registration certificate of the legal entity – be calm, this is not a scam. Tell the carrier that you’ve changed your mind and the payment will be in cash. Get ready for the trip and have a good trip!