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Scammed! Update: Travel agent was arrested yesterday (12/11/17)!

I am so bummed. Anger hasn't quite set in. We booked the Trail of Lippizaners tour through Mythic Travel out of Denver in January. Instead of paying the corresponding tour company, she spent our money. Now we are out the tour and out our money. So far we have found out she did the same to at least one other person. The tour company is not being helpful, saying it's not their problem. We were scheduled to leave Friday.
I'm willing to try to wing it through Venice and on to Vienna. Probably not the best idea but at least we don't waste the plane tickets or pay cancellation fees. My friend doesn't think she can swing that financially.
Any ideas?
You all have been so helpful through all my excitement and questions.
Kathy

12/12. Update: Yesterday Therese turned herself in to the Denver Police. After missing the 8am deadline, the DA's office gave her a choice of turning herself in by 4pm or the police coming to get her. She will be arraigned on theft charges today. Court case will probably be in February. More victims have come forward. Her arrest doesn't get our money returned but we feel like justice is being served. She will not be able to steal more tourists' money. Funny on the arrest report: hair color "green".
AIG/Travelguard has denied our claims and appeals. Clever legal-ese wording allows them to deny many claims. There are over 130 complaints on the BBB website because of denials.

10/18. Update: The Denver Police Major Crimes unit has taken the case; a very nice detective is working the case. All five ToL participants who paid for the tour through Mythic are part of the complaint. The police have subpoenaed Mythic's bank records which they should have in a couple more weeks. Therese skipped - surprise, surprise - but may still be in the Denver area. Better Business Bureau has been in contact with her. She is seeking arbitration but we are fed up with her lies and promises so refuse to arbitrate. It's just another ruse on her part. She has stated she has no money or assets. TravelGuard/AIG's insurance contract says nothing about fraud/theft, so we have filed claims on that basis. I'll let you all know the outcome. You've all been so nice and helpful. I appreciate it.
On the brighter side, my husband and I leave for Hawaii tomorrow. Have to use the airline credit or lose that too. Not a bad consolation prize. Getting my husband to fly anywhere is close to a miracle.

Posted by
2336 posts

Do you have travel insurance? If so there may be some coverage.

Posted by
2467 posts

So sorry to hear about your misfortune. I'm assuming this Mythic Travel was a 3rd party travel agency that you bought the tour through? In that case, the actual tour provider can't do anything. After all, they weren't paid. Hopefully you still have all the receipts and/or invoices from the travel agency. Did you buy travel insurance, or purchase the tour with a credit card? You might be able to recoup the lost funds through them? But not likely before you leave for Europe.

I hope you can put together an independent travel plan and still salvage something out of your trip.

Posted by
30973 posts

I'm also sorry to hear about your misfortune, and not sure if you'll be able to salvage your trip. Mythic World Tours appears to still be in business, so a first step might be to report them to the Better Business Bureau. Is this the type of tour that you had booked - http://www.austriatraveldirect.com/tours.php?D=198

I'd probably take the same approach that you mentioned above. Go on the trip anyway and try to make the best of it. That will help to avoid losing a lot of money on air tickets, etc.

Posted by
1308 posts

Even if you don't have travel insurance, if you paid with a credit card you might have some recourse. Check to see if you can contest the charges. Or some credit cards offer travel insurance as a cardholder benefit.

If you paid by check, I'm not sure what recourse you have.

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and I hope you can figure out how to get your money back and are able to rebook your vacation with a more reliable tour company.

Posted by
948 posts

Ken and Lola,
Yes that's the tour. Therese took the tour off her website but before she did, I made a screen print of it. Lots of excuses and she blamed the tour director for all of it. I kept dozens of emails.
Therese claims she will refund our money but I'm not holding my breath. Foolish us paid by wire transfer because she said she didn't take credit cards. We wanted to book thru a US agent not one based in Australia whose website is based in Austria.
We have travel insurance but doubt if Travelgard will cover it because both companies are still in business and we're not sure if fraud is covered.

Posted by
2467 posts

The fact that a travel agent wouldn't accept credit cards didn't send up huge red flags?

Posted by
5320 posts

Kathy, so sad to hear that. You have been so diligent about the details of your trip, only to have the base taken away at the last minute. How did you find out you had no tour reservations? Would it be worthwhile for you to pay the change fees to reschedule the airline tickets until you have time to put something together? To make bookings for accommodations quickly, take a look at booking.com. You may not get the exact experience as the tour, but you CAN have an amazing planned-on-the-go trip.

A friend had a situation similar to yours, having sent an initial deposit on a tour to a reputable California travel company (she and I had taken a tour to China with them) and when she called to find out about sending a second payment she found that they were out of business and had declared bankruptcy. She contacted the state attorney general's office in her state and in California. As far as I know, she never got the money back. But she kept on traveling.

Posted by
16858 posts

I suggest contacting the attorney general's office of the appropriate state. If the company still seems to be in business, it is almost certainly remaining so in order to get more money from new customers. The AG should be interested in shutting them down before more people are defrauded.

If the company belongs to an association of travel agents (I don't know what those are, but Google should find them pretty readily), you should report your experience to them as well.

Perhaps one of our RS staffers has additional suggestions?

It's worth asking to speak to a supervisor at your airline to plead your case. There's a slight possibility you'll get someone who's sympathetic to your situation. Perhaps you can get the change fee waived or reduced if you think it would be helpful to have some extra time to make alternative arrangements.

Posted by
23593 posts

I'm confused (and sad for Kathy). I'm trying to tie down the various places mentioned. So, is this a company which pretends to be in Denver but is actually in Australia? With web pages which look like Austria? Or have I got this wrong? If I've got it right going to the BBB or state attorney general won't be much help in dealing with a gang in Australia.

Or maybe I misunderstood?

Posted by
925 posts

Woofie - I am so sorry. I would think that travel insurance would cover this and I would call them today and get the ball rolling. Depending on what they say will let you know whether to go ahead with your trip now, or contact the airlines to delay. Or like you said, wing it. It could be weeks before you receive a refund, if you get one at all. What an upsetting thing to happen. This makes me so angry for you.

Posted by
440 posts

So sad when this happens, hopefully you can get your money back and I hope your own trip works out. Mythic tours by name and nature by the look of it.

All the best

Posted by
6811 posts

Absolutely shocking and so sorry for you to have to deal with a thief.

e sure you so everything in writing, not the phone. This sounds like something the Chris Elliott travel consumer advocate team would take on for you. Www.elliott.org

Posted by
6184 posts

I can't make sense of this. What exactly is the role of Mythic Travel, the tour company on the ground, and your travel agent? It seems like a lot of middlemen to go through ...and yet no confirmation in writing that you have paid for a tour? Where are the contract terms for this tour specifying all the roles and refunds? Is the tour company a subcontractor to Mythic Travel? Why did your travel agent not alert you to any issues beforehand?

It is odd that the local tour company did not reach out to you prior to travel since I assume they are the ones that operate the tour and would need to send you any instructions/ welcome message beforehand. If you are working with a travel agent, they should be helping you sort this out...I'm wondering what their role is in this.

My advice is to stay clear of large payments through wire transfers. Credit cards have much better protections for consumers when they don't get the good they paid for.

Also, if there is a chance that you will in fact get your money back, I would not smear this company on tour forums like this one or social media. I would leave that for absolute last resort because it decreases the chance of a good resolution for you. No matter how angry you are, you want to increase the chance of getting your money back as quickly as possible. It's unclear what happened here but you need to give them at least some fixed time to give you your refund.

Posted by
770 posts

Hi. An earlier poster mentioned the Attorney General. Seems they handle consumer protection. Find info here: https://www.usa.gov/state-consumer/colorado#es-1-off-hop.

Unfortunately, the link posted on this page does not work for me, but there is a toll free phone number. They encourage consumers to call and find out if they are in the right place to handle their complaint.

Posted by
2740 posts

FWIW: These organizations

Austria Travel Direct
Germany Travel Direct
Italy Travel Direct
European Travel Direct

all filter back to this guy in Australia

https://www.linkedin.com/in/trevor-sheahan-b6655524/?ppe=1
or
https://www.linkedin.com/in/trevor-sheahan-204810112/?ppe=1

who runs "Global Travel Enterprises Pty Ltd, a registered Australian Company. ABN # 099189018"

https://www.aus61business.com/company/Global-Travel-Enterprises-Pty-Ltd

Which is in New South Wales but way up near the Gold Coast, Queensland

Here's his blog https://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/Koalat/Trips/26073

Posted by
3321 posts

Hopefully you'll be able to recoup your financial loss. When you do (or if it comes to the point of never expecting to get your funds back) seek criminal prosecution. Theft is theft is theft. A travel agent in Atlanta pulled a similar stunt a number of years ago and got an all expense paid vacation at one of our state run penal resorts.

Posted by
11681 posts

This is the "Trail of the Lipizzaners" tour Kathy and her friend paid to book:

http://www.austriatraveldirect.com/tours.php?D=198

Apparently Mythic Tours ( Therese) did not complete the booking with the tour operator (Austria Travel Direct), so they do not have places on the tour. What a disappointment!

Kathy, could you possibly get a last-minute booking with Hidden Trails, who run a Lipizzaner tour in Slovenia that actually includes riding?

http://www.hiddentrails.com/pub/travelstory.aspx?id=slovenia_lipizzan_center

You should contact the Colorado Attorney General's consumer protection office ASAP to get started on a complaint. They should be able to help you recover the money you paid to Mythic.

Posted by
1980 posts

Telling the truth about what happened isn't smearing a business.

I am so sorry that this happened to you. In addition to whatever consumer complaints you file, you should hire an attorney to review your case and determine if you can recover your damages from the travel agent.

That trip looked amazing. Hopefully Lady Karma with catch up with the travel agent, after you get your money back!

Is there a "consumer reporter" at one of the television stations in the Denver area?

Posted by
2963 posts

I realize that the line, "My friend doesn't think she can swing that financially" is a huge part of the challenge here. You and your friend would be sharing costs which makes it more affordable for both of you. However, if she can't do that (and no blame to her for being honest about the situation), it also means that you either have to pay full trip costs or postpone to a time when you and your friend can both afford the trip.

I like the idea of contacting local reporters. I also like the idea of contacting the airlines and explaining the situation.

I have full confidence that with the support of people on this forum you can plan and have a great trip even on short notice. That is not the issue. Just make sure that your travel companion is not being forced into a position that will be even harder on her financially.

Posted by
6184 posts

In a prior post you write that you booked the flight for this tour with a travel agent affiliated with your tour. It seems like the common thread is this travel agent. So if the tour went south, then the travel agent should help you recover and even cancel your flights penalty free since this sounds like a package deal. What are travel agents for if you have to fix all these messes yourself? It sounds like you're taking on the entire risk for this trip fallout, including the problems with the airline itinerary changes - if that's the case, never use a travel agent again because they're getting paid a commission with no value to you. This tour website repeats over and over that every participant needs to have mandatory insurance...it sounds like they are prepared for major risk-shifting (and not in your favor).

I would get all my money back (airfare, tour, etc.), regroup, and go another time when you are not in this horrible position. It doesn't make sense to fly all the way there and wing it when you had already planned a specific tour. Sure you can wing it last minute, but it will be stressful and costly...no need to put yourself through that, or your friend.

Posted by
948 posts

Thank you all for your empathy and sympathy, thank you to those who made meaningful suggestions and thank you to Lola who clarified my distress.
As of this morning, we are cancelling our plane reservations. Sue is not interested in only visiting Venice and Vienna, while I would be willing. Bottom line, though, is that neither of us can afford the additional money for hotels, meal, etc. Nor do we have time to organize the same kind of trip on our own. I do not want to travel alone. Part of the joy is sharing the experience with a friend, partner or spouse.
I am almost physically sick from distress and dismay over this.
Thank you again. Keep the suggestions coming.

Posted by
11575 posts

It's unclear what happened here but you need to give them at least
some fixed time to give you your refund.

I'm thinking the same: as we don't know every single detail, it seems there is the possibility that some - or all - of the fault really is with Austria Travel Direct. I would remain in contact with your third-party booker (Mythic, who doesn't "pretend" to be in Australia) about the refund as I wouldn't write it off yet. She may be trying to recoup payments forwarded to ATD.

Mythic is listed with the BBB, and there is an actual suite number on that listing:

https://www.bbb.org/denver/business-reviews/sightseeing-tours/mythic-world-tours-inc-in-denver-co-90145724

It appears that they would have accepted "...credit card payment through PayPal." (on "Terms and Conditions" page). This is definitely the way I would have gone in case of needing the C.C. company's assistance/protection, or simply chosen a different tour with a different company that took C.C payments directly as I just won't do wire transfers. I assume you have the invoices from Mythic of payments to date? I might also request from Mythic invoices of payments forwarded to ATD for the booking under your name?

Anyway, I'm so very sorry for your disappointment but I wouldn't assume all is lost (as far as $$) just yet. While the third party you used doesn't have a lot of recommendations/reviews online, neither am I finding much for documented complaints so take a deep breath and cross fingers? We'll be crossing them for you as well!

Posted by
6184 posts

Mythic Travel states on their website:
"We accept payment by wire transfer at the client's expense or credit card payment through PayPal."

Always pick the credit card or PayPal option when given the choice on any large expense, it's cheaper overall and offers more protections. Resist having anyone steer you into wire transfers unless there is no other option (there usually is, even if it means doing business elsewhere). The problem with wire transfers is it shifts the entire risk on the payer. I'm sorry this happened to you, and hope you can just step back now and regroup. Once you have a mental break from this and you are not as (understandably) upset, focus on getting all your money back. Press for a timely resolution with a date (or short time range) when you can expect the refund. Best of luck to you.

Posted by
17659 posts

Also the address listed on their website is an apartment block

The address I see on their website is Dominion Towers, 600 17th St., which is an office tower, described by their property managers as, "a distinctive 613,528 square foot office property comprised of two octagonal-shaped towers."

Interestingly, I got a spam call yesterday, which I didn't answer, with a Denver number, identified on caller ID only as "600 17th St". Of course there are a lot of businesses in that complex. The call wasn't necessarily from Mythic.

Posted by
11575 posts

The address I see on their website is Dominion Towers, 600 17th St.,

??? Lee, the address I'm seeing on Mythic's site is 1150 South Birch Street, No. 1-302.

Posted by
4031 posts

Oh, Kathy, we're all so sorry. What a disappointment. Folks have made some really good suggestions - the state AG, consumer watchdogs from the local news...

I do hope you don't let this sour you on travel. It's a tough lesson, but you have learned something here. That's cold comfort, I know. But our thoughts are with you.

Posted by
2336 posts

This is terrible. But do contact Travel Guard as you have a loss. Don't worry about who did what to who, that is their issue. Your claim is your trip is lost. Get them involved now and if the first customer service agent is not helpful ask him/her for a supervisor.

Posted by
11681 posts

Kathy, you made the right choice in canceling. Focus your energy on getting your money refunded.

Do not contact an attorney as suggested above. They do not work for free, and a lawsuit could easily cost more than you can recover from Mythic, even if you win.

The Colorado Attorney General ConsumerbProtection division will be able to help you. Here is the link for filing a complaint for consumer fraud:

https://coag.gov/about-us/office-sections/consumer-protection

But first, try to work it out with Thèrese. From her website, she obviously cares about her reputation and the travel industry awards she has won, and would not want to jeopardize those. Give her a deadline for a full refund, and let her know that you will ( reluctantly) file a claim with the AG Consumer Fraud division if she does not pay up.

I had very good results with the Washington State AG's office in a similar fraud situation,malthough it involved a used car, not a tour package. The simple threat of investigation by the AG caused them to provide complete satisfaction.

The story above by the person who did not get their deposit back on a canceled tour is a different situation (bankruptcy) and is not relevant to your situation---at least I hope Mythic Tours is not in bankruptcy or contemplating that step.

I understand how very disappoinint this must be for you. Remember I am the person who was considering going on a trail ride at Lake Bled with you. (That did not work out as my husband has now scheduled rowing practice that day, and needs my support/logistical help). But the first order of business is to take a deep breath and focus on the refund.

P.S the advice above to avoid slamming here on social media is spot on. You have not done that here, simply presented the facts in a neutral way. Just avoid the temptation to vent your (completely justified) anger in that way.

Good luck to you.
.

Posted by
2229 posts

Contact the District Attorney in the county where they are located. U.S. Atty General and state AG is all fine, but this is a local crime and I think you'll get more interest there.

Posted by
1070 posts

Oh, Kathy, im so sorry. You've been given lots of good ideas on how to try to recoup the money so you and your friend can try again.

Since you have all of the arrangements made to leave home and are packed.... is there something fun and cheap you and friend can do this weekend to salvage a bit of the fun? Three day weekend to a state park? Or take your horses out for the day Sat and sunday a museum and fancy lunch? My thoughts are w you both

Posted by
11681 posts

"this is a local crime"

There has been no crime yet. Thèrese has said she will refund the money, and although Kathy is skeptical of that assurance, it remains to be seen if she will. The local DA is not going to investigate a "crime" that has not happened yet.

The state AG Consumer Protection Division exists for this very purpose---to investigate possible fraud and to intervene with the business to achieve a satisfactory resolution. That is their mission and they have the expertise and the clout. Give them a chance to do their job---IF Thèrese fails to come up with the refund due.

Posted by
16771 posts

The resources mentioned already are your best bets. Unfortunately, Colorado does not have a law requiring sellers of travel to be registered and bonded, as do Washington, California, and a few other states. These laws also dictate how tour payments are held. Mythic Travel does not advertise any accreditation by the widely recognized trade agencies, such as the International Air Transport Association or the American Society of Travel Agents. So those don't give you any new avenues to pursue. It seems to be legal for anyone to set up a home-based travel agency such as Mythic Travel, but of course not legal to misappropriate your money and fail to provide the promised services.

Posted by
948 posts

You are all amazing. Thank you so much for your help and suggestions.
Just to let you know, I kept almost all email threads (maybe not some the earliest ones) from Therese along with receipts with bank wire transfer confirmations. She blamed the tour director for the problems until yesterday when she admitted she had not paid him. I finally was able to email the tour director and he responded that he tried for the past seven weeks to get payment from her. I was also able to contact the other US tour participant and we shared information. She was suppose to leave for Venice today but I have not heard if she went.
Therese said she would refund our money. We gave her a deadline of Sept 1 to do so, but frankly I'm not holding my breath. We will contact the AG and others at that time.

My disbelief is now turning to anger. Part of me wants to fly to Venice for a week or so just to have a vacation and say I was there. The other part of me is afraid of traveling alone. I have not cancelled the two night hotel stay in Mestre yet nor have I cancelled flights. I need to do that this afternoon.
Have any of you travelled to Venice alone? My husband's really worried about safety by myself.
Thanks again!

Posted by
2963 posts

I believe you could go on this trip and be safe. I don't think you should go while you are feeling this upset. Solo travel will be a new experience for you and I think that you could do it. It is the timing that worries me. You really won't have had time to think through options and I would hate for you to feel like you had less of an experience than you should have. There are some aspects that are a little different with solo travel and you may need a little bit more time to learn about them. That said, if you are determined to go, then go.

You mentioned earlier that you are the type of traveler that has the most fun when you have someone to share the experience with. I also feel that way so I understand. You could use this forum as the people to share your experience with. Many here would be glad to follow along with you and give you a chance to share what is happening daily. You have an entire group of people who care about how your trip works out and are ready to support you!

Posted by
11681 posts

Kathy---about Venice: there is no city in the world where I feel as safe as I do in Venice.

My husband and I spent a full month there 3 years ago, and there were many times when I happily wandered the streets alone. ( Actually one is rarely alone there as most of the calles are filled with tourists following their tour guide. ). It is one place I would not hesitate to travel alone.

But do not stay in Mestre if you go. I know it is cheaper, but it does not enjoy the same safety as Venice proper. I have seen locals on Tripadvisor advise that the areas around the Mestre train and bus stations are not deemed safe from petty crime.

Posted by
770 posts

Kathy,

I have stayed in Venice with a group and solo. One of my favorite routes (it seems I take variations all the time) is to start either in Munich or Venice and travel to the other. If you started in Venice, give yourself a few days, hop on the train and stay overnight in Bolzano or Innsbruck, then continue on by train for the final few days in Munich. This would cover some of the locations that were mentioned in your anticipated tour.

Sorry this has happened and that the time to make decisions is so tight.

Posted by
11613 posts

Kathy, Venezia is very safe, just normal precautions need to be taken as you would in any other city that has crowds during the day.

It's easy to get lost, just don't panic if you do. Venezia is a series of islands, so there is a limited number of mistakes you can make. Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to a very special moment.

I have traveled solo for many years, in countries where I only spoke six or seven words of the local language, and have had some great experiences. If you find a small hotel or B&B that includes breakfast, sometimes you will be able to talk to other visitors.

If you stay in Venezia (not Venezia-Mestre), you will have your favorite spots by the third day. You might work in a daytrip to Padova while you are there.

Posted by
30973 posts

Kathy,

If Mythic Travel has not paid the tour director, then the money should still be in their account and readily available. Therefore, there should be NO delay in issuing a refund. Perhaps she can use a wire transfer, since that's the method she seems to prefer.

Perhaps Mythic Travel would be interested to know that this situation is now public knowledge on a widely read worldwide travel forum. If they're interested in future business and their reputation, they should be concerned! I hope Mythic Travel is suitable ashamed of their behaviour in this incident, especially after ruining a dream trip for two people.

Regarding travelling to Venice on your own, I've found it very safe although the situation is a bit different for males. With adequate preparation, you shouldn't have any problems (but of course there are never any guarantees). If staying in Venice, you might consider staying IN Venice, and not Mestre.

While it's nice to have someone to share the experiences and memories with, if you don't have anyone to travel with it's better to take the trip rather than miss out on the experience entirely. Solo travel has some benefits too!

A suggestion for future reference...... If you decide to try this tour again, you might consider using a local, properly licensed travel agent rather than an online agent. I've used that approach many times and did the same thing this year for booking a tour, and that approach has worked well for me.

Good luck!

Posted by
840 posts

Kathy, I'm sad to hear that this happened. How frustrating! I hope you receive your reimbursement.

A note for all of us: Pay attention to websites and how they look. Appearance speaks volumes. Proceed with caution when you see grammatical errors, websites that look old in style, links that don't work, fuzzy videos, links that don't go to described destinations (i.e. I clicked on one of the hotel links and it took me back to a tour itinerary description instead of to the hotel description). When you click on a link, a well-developed, newer website will open a new tab. Beware blurred fonts, non-existent guest comments, cheesy animation, etc. etc.

Go with your gut, and if something seems off or not quite right, please be careful.

Posted by
948 posts

Here's what I did: I cancelled the plane tickets. I just don't want to travel alone since it's been 25 years since my last adventure. My husband is adamant that I not travel alone. I have until February to use the credit.

Next I cancelled the hotel in Mestre and am hoping they will honor a refund. I know many of you do not like Mestre, but I must say that the Hotel Plaza has been very responsive and helpful, even looking thru their archives for cancelled reservations.

Thank you all again for your help. I shared the thread with Sue and we both appreciate how kind you are. I'll be following up frequently to let you know how this plays out. Tomorrow I will contact Travelguard to start the ball rolling on a claim, if we can even make one.
Kathy

Posted by
16858 posts

The travel business is a very tough one to make a living at. That was true even back in the good old days of 6% airline commissions. The revenue pie is a lot smaller now at the agency level. If bookings (and fees/commissions) drop off, a small agency may have no buffer at all, and the next deposit that comes in may be used to pay the rent or the electric bill. With luck another customer comes along and the funds from his bookings get diverted to pay (belatedly) the previous customer's deposit). Once this pattern is established, it's quite difficult for an agency to dig itself out. Over time, there are more and more customers whose deposits go to pay operating expenses rather then tneir tour deposits. Ultimately, there is a bankruptcy.

A good friend of mine suffered a very similar experience, though in her case it was the tour operator itself that didn't make the final payments to hotels.

Posted by
6184 posts

Maybe it's just me but I couldn't find a single review - TripAdvisor or other - on this tour company. How did you come across them to begin with? Most tour companies love to broadcast all their great reviews, RS included.

I got burned once booking hotels with an unscrupulous third party in Croatia that went belly up, but luckily I got all my credit card charges reversed quickly once I filed a complaint.

Posted by
7693 posts

This is heartbreaking. I know you were so looking forward to your trip.

I know you're a horse person but you might consider a Rick Steves tour. I see Venice, Florence and Rome starting Feb 12-21 which gets you in the time frame for using your ticket and gets you to Venice! You also would have the support of a group. If your friend doesn't want to go or can't go, I can vouch for these tours being friendly to solo-travelers! I also see some tour dates in November that are open.

https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/italy/venice-florence-rome

I also know you are not ready to consider another plan right now. You need some time to deal with your disappointment and anger at having this vacation yanked out from under you!!

Posted by
4031 posts

Kathy, Pam's idea is pretty good. Think about it.

Posted by
11681 posts

Acraven's scenario is what I fear here. The fact that Thèrese did not send the money to the tour provider suggests that the business is in a downward spiral, financially. In the event she fails to provide the refund, and the Colorado AG cannot provide satisfaction, Kathy may have grounds at that point to claim on her travel insurance. I hope it will turn out OK.

And Pam's suggestion of a RS tour in Italy in February is a good one, and thoughtful.

Posted by
6184 posts

The fact that Thèrese did not send the money to the tour provider
suggests that the business is in a downward spiral, financially.

Or....she may be in a contract dispute with the tour operator and the withheld money is being used as leverage of some kind. There can be a lot of dirty laundry between third parties and actual service providers that one will never see. It sounds like these two companies are definitely not seeing eye-to-eye when there is finger pointing on at least one side. Yet the third party is obligated, both legally and ethically, to act on the purchasers behalf when the money is received and a confirmation of one's place on the tour is given following receipt because the contract is between the purchaser and third party. So if the third party's supplier flakes, the third party still needs to make the purchaser whole. But who knows what's going on in the background between either business.

When you compare some tour terms and conditions with the Rick Steves tour terms and conditions, you realize just how good and fair Rick's company is. RS is much more transparent, clear, and forgiving if someone has to cancel their trip. Obviously not everyone can afford to run their operation this generously, but it speaks to the importance of seeing exactly what you're getting for your money. There really is a difference.

Posted by
1980 posts

Kathy - I know have already commented on your post, but I'm kind of obsessed right now. That tour looked so amazing and really did look like the trip of a lifetime. I would kill for a chance to see Piber. The "Downton Abbey" tour currently on her website would have sucked me right in. I worry about the next people who purchase a tour from her. If only everybody read this forum!

I would love to know how the travel agent thought she was going to get away with this. Did she give you any kind of explanation?

Posted by
1084 posts

I'm so sorry this has happened to you. I hope in the end you get all your money back.
Meanwhile, I'm here to tell you that solo travel as a woman is great!
My husband doesn't want to travel, so I go off on my own. I'm 63.
In the past I have had 10 days in London, two different times in Paris for two weeks each, lots of trips to Italy, and in two weeks I am heading for .....Venice!
Though a friend is joining me there for half of the time.
In December I'm off to Iceland and Denmark.
If you can afford it, go!
You can join walking tours, read a lot, wander at will, and still have a great time alone.
Good luck!

Posted by
968 posts

Kathy, I am also so sorry to read of what has happened to you and your plans.
It was obvious how much thought went into this trip and how much you and your friend were looking forward to it.
Let me encourage you, in a month or two, to start thinking about another trip, perhaps the RS mentioned above or something else with a friend.
I am now 70 and have traveled to Europe 14 times since the mid-80's. (Yes, I was younger then when I started!) I have made perhaps 4 trips alone (not on a tour) and while it's always a learning experience I have always felt safe.
Venice especially is a very easy place to be and you can book a room in a centrally located convent (monasterystays.com) for much less than the cost of a hotel. And you don't have to be catholic, just respectful.
I know it's too soon to make plans now, but think of it as getting back on the horse that threw you ... (I used to ride!)
And please keep us up-to-date on this situation and any future plans.
We are all sending you our best wishes.
SharYn

Posted by
362 posts

I have no better advice to offer than what has already been posted here, but I wanted to say two things.

First - I'm so sorry this happened to you! I can imagine how upset I'd feel in the same situation. I hope that you'll receive a refund on your money.

Second - I suggest you book a tour to go with that travel credit with the airline. RS is a very reputable tour company, and I've read great things here about solo travelers going with them. I have also traveled with other tour groups who were very friendly to solo travelers. Sometimes I think they had the best of it all with everyone wanting to be sure to try and include them!

PS - Venice is uber cool. I would not hesitate to visit there as a solo traveler, but you might have more fun going with a tour group.

Posted by
688 posts

I've been wondering what came of all of this.....OP did you get your money back?

Posted by
948 posts

Update (wish I knew how to add that to the topic):
The travel agent missed our Sept 1 deadline to refund our money. No surprise there, just more disappointment and anger. On Aug 30 I sent her an email and she actually responded with "I'm sorry." On Aug 31 we sent her another email slightly changing our payment demand - direct tour/hotel costs reimbursed by 9/1, afterwards we also want reimbursement of airline cancellation fee and travel insurance.
So far we each filed complaints with documentation to the Denver Better Business Bureau, the Colorado Attorney General and the Austrian Tourism Office where she is listed as an agent. We are in the process of filing police reports for theft. I'm thinking either small claims court or one of those TV new consumer advocates is our next step. We need to wait a bit to see if she responds to anything.

The third person on our tour is also involved with filing claims for reimbursement. We are sharing information and communications. The tour director will be filing claims when he finishes the tour.
I'll update you as I get more information.
Kathy

Posted by
11681 posts

Sounds good. I would not expect much of the BBB in terms of action--- they may downgrade her rating ( if she has one) but they don't really go to bat for you. The AG should do better.

As for filing in small claims court, you would have to figure out the proper venue (probably Colorado) and pay a small filing fee. And if it is Colorado, you will have to go there and appear at the hearing to present your case. If she fails to show up, as it appears likely, you would get a default judgment against her. But collecting on that judgment is another matter.

Posted by
1352 posts

Horsewoofie, The local CBS station runs stories like this once in a while. denver.cbslocal.com/ So sorry for your trouble!

Posted by
1980 posts

Thanks for the update. So sorry that the travel agent lived up to your expectations.

I know there are those on this forum who have advised you against hiring an attorney - but that doesn't necessarily mean paying for a "blood from a turnip" lawsuit. A consumer law specialist could help you get whatever relief is possible in a state that doesn't regulate travel agents.

Posted by
2336 posts

What do you want here? You want your money back. All this business about police, AG, BBB etc is baloney. Even if they would do something, you get nothing. Ditto for small claims court. You may win, but they won't enforce a judgement. A lawyer? You'll pay more than you'll ever see. You should stop negotiating with this person immediately and let your travel insurance deal with this. It's why you insure.

Posted by
63 posts

Hi Kathy,

Small world.

I'm not sure I can be of any help, but I know this woman. When I saw the name of your agent, I googled her name along with the tour and confirmed (based on her full name + pic) that it was who I'd guessed.

Years ago, I ran a large group dedicated to getting people out to see the performing arts here in Denver. Your agent, who was a group member, approached me regarding opera tickets, and for several events provided those tickets at a discount I was not otherwise able to secure. The last time I worked with her, I paid her for over $700 in opera tickets, and quite a bit of time passed before the tickets were actually received. I can't at this point say I remember if she refunded me (and I purchased them directly), or if she came through after multiple contacts by me. It was long enough that I was very concerned that I was going to be out the amount I sent her. However, she did eventually come through and I was not out the money.

I believe she seriously overextends herself financially. However, the reason I'm posting is to say that I do have some hope that you'll eventually get your refund. I know that certainly doesn't help you now, and for these $ amounts I would be taking the same actions you have initiated.

I am so sorry this happened to you. I never dealt with Mythic, though she repeatedly tried to get me to sign up for one of her opera tours in Austria. I only dealt directly with your agent.

**I've edited this post based on research I've done in the past couple days... memory fades after six years!

Posted by
11681 posts

Alan--I agree with you 75%. . The BBB, a personal lawyer, and small claims court are unlikely to provide any resolution. The Colorado AG Consumer Protection office, on the other hand, may have some clout. If this woman wants to stay in business, she will need to pay attention to them.

Kathy should in the meantime pursue a claim with her travel insurance. Whether fraud of this nature is covered, I have no idea--it may depend on the plan. I have only seen coverage for a company going out of business and retaining payments, to be covered. But I have not reviewed all possible policies.

Posted by
2336 posts

I think it's clear from this thread the perpetrator is a thief. Probably a Ponzi scheme or variation. Sure the AG can take this on, may or may not based on resources and how much money is involved.. But the OP is unlikely to get anything out of it.

Posted by
7693 posts

Stacy, I'm glad you posted your experience with this woman. She clearly has a long history of poor business dealings and I hope this has made Kathy feel a bit better. It also seems like she should not be in business - at all.

Posted by
63 posts

She definitely shouldn't, Pam. And it's a lot easier to come up with 1k versus the amount here - for at least three travelers. I feel so terrible for Kathy.

I've also googled Therese, her husband, and Mythic extensively, but can't find any complaints. I know she's been in the tour biz since at least 2011 or so, so maybe she floated from one to the next... or, I suppose it's possible that this is the first booking she's received. If she were running big scams, she could change the company names - but I can't find any complaints under her name, either.

Posted by
15578 posts

For Kathy's sake, let us hope she finds another client (aka sucker) for a big tour, then she can use their down payment to pay back Kathy and friends. Yes, has all the hallmarks of a grossly under-capitalized business that has to operate on the "Rob Peter to Pay Paul" principal.

Posted by
948 posts

Stacy, thank you for posting your experience with Therese. I sent you a PM.
Jill, thank you for the CBS link
Lola, thank you for your help. Have a wonderful vacation.
Thank you everyone else for your good wishes.

According to our insurance agent, Travelguard does not cover theft, fraud or misappropriation of funds. It only covers if the travel agent or tour company files bankruptcy. We bought travel insurance thinking that at 65+ we'd get sick or injured. There is "cancel for any reason" clause which we did not purchase. The cost would have been what we paid for the insurance policy so $600 additional but it only pays out 50% of the insured amount. We have 6 months to pursue a claim.

Posted by
15578 posts

Sue her for $10,000,000. That should put her into bankruptcy, then you can collect on the travel insurance.

Posted by
10846 posts

I seemed to remember your name so I looked up your posts. Is this the second mishap on this trip? On 8/20 you said you were leaving on 8/25. ?

Posted by
1980 posts

I'm surprised you haven't posted anything on Mythic's Facebook page. I was sorely tempted - she made a comment that someone's observation on a photo hyping the "Downton Abbey" tour helped keep her "honest".

Posted by
948 posts

James E, this is the same trip. We were to leave 8/25 for a few days in Venice before the tour. Hotel for the extra days was paid to the travel agent at the time we paid for the tour.

Posted by
10846 posts

its 9/3, so have you already missed your flights? So the "January" in the header was when you made the arrangements, not when you were to leave.... I have an idea for you, i think, but i am trying to figure this out first (for the dates).

Posted by
9 posts

*** The "Downton Abbey" tour currently on her website would have sucked me right in. ***

Indeed. The "Downton Abbey escorted tour" on her website is for December 2017 - running supposedly 05/12/2107 to 12/12/2017.

On day 3 of the tour, one is promised a "Champagne Reception with the Earl and Countess Carnarvon at Highclere Castle – Downton Abbey – your first photo op on this exciting tour!"

I am a tad skeptical. I looked into visiting Highclere, it is not easy. There are only a few opening times per year and they often sell out months in advance. Group visits are particularly tight in availability: The Highclere website indicates that all group bookings for 2017 were sold out as of January 2016. All group bookings for 2018 sold out as of January, 2017:

https://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/group-visits

Next, the only evening champagne reception I could find is for October 17, 2017 - NOT in December:

https://highclerecastleshop.co.uk/categories/champagne-reception

There is indeed a Christmas Fair on December 6-7, 2017, and as of the date of posting tickets are shown as still available. However, the fair closes for the day at 4:30 p.m both days, and there is no mention of a champagne reception event that day:

https://highclerecastleshop.co.uk/categories/christmas-fair-tickets

Not conclusive proof something is wrong, but not reassuring, either.

Posted by
840 posts

Regarding companies having reviews on travel review sites like Trip Advisor---I think tour companies, hotels, attractions may have to register with TA in order to have people post reviews about them. A small tour company I used in the Netherlands a few years ago finally got themselves up on TA after a few of us encouraged the owners to do so. In that case, it was a reputable small business and we thought being on TA would help spread the word about their good trips.

If what I say is indeed how it works, there's a reason a company like Mythic is hiding from being on TA and similar websites. They don't want reviews they can't control and cull.

Posted by
63 posts

One positive turn - the BBB now lists them as not rated, and has a pretty specific note of caution. Since Mythic has such limited information online, this is the fourth result I get when I google "Mythic World Tours." Considering their almost complete lack of web presence (i.e., multiple positive reviews on TA or elsewhere), this should give any reasonable person more than enough cause for concern.

Pattern of Complaint

BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning refund issues. Specifically, consumers allege that this business accepts money via wire transfer for travel tours and then notifies the consumer that the money was not applied to the tours and tells them they may later receive a refund. Consumers claim that they are only able to go on the tour if they pay the tour company again. Consumers allege that when they request their refund, the business tells them that they do not have access to the funds. BBB has requested a response from the business.

The detailed information for the previous report (May 2017) has also been made available:

Problems with Product/Service

Complaint
On 9/27/16 I rec'd a bill from Mythic Tours for the sum of $3,025.00 which I wired that day for a trip to ******, which trip was to start 12/18/16. On 12/1/16 ** *****, owner of Mythic Tours, informed me in writing that she had spent my funds for her own expenses. Clearly, ** ****** spent... my funds in a completely unauthorized and illegal manner. I made demand for immediate reimbursement. I was told by *** *****, on 12/5/2016 that she would reimburse me in a month or so. Today's date is 3/24/17 - I have heard nothing more from ** *****, nor have I been reimbursed the $3,025.00 originally forwarded to her.

(Show Less of Complaint)
Desired Resolution
I expect *
* ****** to immediately reimburse me the sum of $3,025.00 that was forwarded to her on 9/27/16.

Consumer Business Dialog
Business

I am working to resolve this issue with *** ******. I have contacted her and she's aware that the open account will be resolved in her favor.

Posted by
948 posts

Thanks Stacy. That just posted today. Close your eyes if you don't like implied profanity: Well, s**t! If the complainant would have filed her/his complaint at time of incident we may have seen problems and never booked with Mythic. We had asked BBB several times since early June what is in the complaint with the answer being "we can't see the complaint" and "you will need a subpoena". Not that that would have helped, really, because we paid for the tour in January.
Ok, that's off my chest, now for where we are in the complaint process...
We three US participants have filed complaints with BBB, Colorado AG and the FBI against Mythic World Tours, Local police has been somewhat cooperative except in Phoenix where I live. We are also filing travel insurance claims because we can show from her email that she has no income, no sales and intends to use other people's deposits to pay us. We don't know what the Australian couple are doing yet, but they're in our email loop. Obviously from the BBB complaint, this has been Therese's operating mode for a long time.

Posted by
6184 posts

Can I ask how you found this company to begin with? Was is just via a Google search related to your interests (e.g. Lippizaner Tour)?

Posted by
948 posts

Agnes, my friend/travel companion found it online late last year. Then we started really talking about it. I am a dressage rider, I like anything horse related but at 66 I can't ride all day for an Equitours ride. She used to be an endurance rider but no longer rides. As mentioned somewhere along the way on this thread, we thought we did our due diligence, more concerned about booking with an Austrian company than a US one. Turns out that was backwards.
I just spent 3 hours filing an FBI report. Ugh! Thought I'd pull my hair out getting their system to work. I'm barely computer literate. Cut and paste, no PDFs and won't copy PDFs/logos into the form, then ran into space constraints for email documentation.
We're hoping the fraud evidence and history will get the travel insurance to pay.

Posted by
63 posts

horsewoofie - it sure would have been nice if the BBB put the detailed information up earlier. I wonder if they couldn't do that until the "pattern of complaint" had been established. I don't know how their process works.

Is Therese aware of the complaints you've filed, and have you heard anything from her recently?

Posted by
948 posts

Stacy, Therese is aware of some of the complaints. The MT participant filed a complaint with Business Consumer Alliance and got the usual reply from Therese- no money, no sales, intends to pay when she can. Plus someone, not me, accidently copied Therese into an email that asked the ToL group about filing FBI reports. The first BBB complaint proves she is not going to pay anyone. That person's been trying collect since December.

Kathy

Posted by
3321 posts

No idea what the laws are in Arizona or Colorado, but in Georgia there is a criminal offense known as "Theft By Conversion". It applies to the situation in which someone takes the assets of another and uses them as if they were their own. I'm not an attorney and I'm not giving legal advice. But, as painful as swallowing the loss will be, I'd be inclined to seek criminal charges.

Posted by
63 posts

I'm very happy to hear that the Major Crimes unit has taken the case! It must be quite a bit of money since five people are involved.

I'm curious on a couple things - how do they know Therese skipped? Is the apartment vacant? Also, do you know why the BBB hasn't posted your complaint yet? Is there a waiting period while they reach out to Therese?

I wouldn't want to go into arbitration, either. You deserve every penny back - though I agree it's unlikely she'll pay up at this point (good luck with the travel insurance!). Once they get the bank records, it'll be interesting to see if there are any other large deposits in there - after yours. Since she's still attempting to sell tours on her website, there could certainly be more affected people out there.

I wonder if DPD can force her to take down her website and Facebook page since she has such a strong history of stealing people's money. It makes me angry that she's still advertising her upcoming tours.

Thanks for the update, Kathy! I wish you all the best as you move forward. Have a great time in Hawaii!

Posted by
948 posts

Stacy, the police found out she has not been at the address on the invoices for two years. As to shutting her website down, the police said that people like her will just start up another website. Since she's getting the tour I nfo somewhere, i asked the tour operator if there is a way to prevent her from posting Austrian tours, but did not get an answer.
It took BBB almost five months to post the previous complaint (complaint filed in May, posted in September). So I don't know how long it will take to posts ours. My travel buddy and I reject her responses within a day to try to keep the process moving along.
I can't remember if I posted earlier that there were five of us on this tour who had our paid in full tour money "borrowed", about $30,000. We also wonder how many other people have been victimized, besides the person who filed the May BBB complaint.
Kathy

Posted by
7693 posts

Thanks so much for the update. I am glad you are getting response from the police.

I also wonder how she can continue to advertise tours. It seems like the tour providers would have a say as to who resells their tours but maybe I just don’t understand the business.

Glad you are being able to use your credit!

Posted by
18 posts

Pam: she is a scammer, I doubt she's going to listen to requests.

The tour provider would most likely need to take legal action like a cease and desist order. At best it would drive her to misrepresent some other tour provider.

Posted by
2336 posts

While all this BBB, FBI, police gyration may give you some satisfaction (until you get a subpoena to testify at an inconvenient time) only the insurance claim has a shot of getting you what you really want-your money. Consider hiring an attorney to sue this scammer for your money and damages. If you can get one to do this on contingency you have nothing to loose. Chances are a scammer like this has assets well hidden. A pit bull attorney can find them. Always keep in mind the difference between criminal and civil charges. Remember OJ: criminal, not guilty. Civil, guilty with millions in damages.

Posted by
63 posts

Hi Kathy,

I'm checking in since I noticed that the BBB has posted three new complaints - no details, yet. I'm assuming these are from you the others who booked the TOL tour. Did BBB just close them because you were rejecting her responses (the requests for arbitration)? Did they give you any indication as to when the details of your complaints will be made public?

It certainly seems that Therese is going to have a tougher time getting people to book with her. Not only are the details for the one complaint public, but when I google "Mythic World Tours," this thread pulls up on the first or second page of results. Hopefully that'll be enough to scare others off, considering her business has no positive reviews on a neutral website. It really irks me that she's still advertising tours, but I suppose I shouldn't expect more.

Any other updates with the ongoing investigation?

I hope you and your husband had a wonderful time in Hawaii - you certainly deserve it!

Best,

Stacy

Posted by
948 posts

Thanks for checking in, Stacy. Yes, those 3 BBB complaints are our group. BBB takes forever to post complaint results. There should be updates coming soon, probably in a few weeks. AIG/Travel Guard denied our claims - surprise, surprise - and we are appealing their decision. I want my money so I can go to Italy! RS Southern Italy tour looks very tempting.

Posted by
6811 posts

Kathy,
Have you looked on the Chris Elliott website? He and his colleagues are the consumer travel trouble-shooters, not the actor. They take on people’s cases.
Again, hoping for the best outcome.

Posted by
30973 posts

Kathy,

The RS South Italy tour is awesome. If you can get the previous matter sorted and find the money, I think you'd really enjoy the tour.

Posted by
11681 posts

Why did Travel Guard deny the claim? Is fraud not covered?

Posted by
5504 posts

Why did Travel Guard deny the claim? Is fraud not covered?

My TG "Silver" policy in part says:

The following exclusions also apply to Trip Cancellation and Trip
Interruption:

Unless otherwise provided by this plan Benefits will not be provided
for any loss resulting (in whole or in part) from:

(f) failure of any tour operator, Common Carrier, person or agency to
provide the bargained-for travel arrangements or to refund money due
the Insured;

(g) Financial Default;

It would seem that exclusion "f" would apply to agency fraud.

Posted by
63 posts

Hi Kathy,

I noticed that the details of a second complaint are finally posted. Interesting that Therese plainly states that she was "borrowing against future sales which did not materialize." Her website really should be shut down, as she also notes that she gets $1800 through what I'm guessing is social security, meaning she'll never be able to pay you all back without stealing it from someone else... as we already knew. What a scam.

I also noticed that the BBB left Austria Travel Direct in there one time, but redacted it several other times. Oops.

Posted by
2814 posts

Therese plainly states that she was "borrowing against future sales which did not materialize."

Lawyers regularly get disbarred for that kind of "borrowing."

Posted by
2509 posts

Horsewoofie was yesterday 12/11/17? Good job with thorough following through. Glad to see that a criminal/legal system is ready to act on this unscrupulous person and her "business" too. So sorry you've been put through this but what a valuable lesson for consumers in travel and all areas of services. Thank you!

Posted by
7693 posts

Oh that is wonderful! I am so glad the Justice system is working.

Disappointed that AIG/TravelGuard denied the claim, though.

Thanks so much for the update. You know we were all concerned about the outcome.

Posted by
1980 posts

I wish we all could have just read your trip report and never heard of that sleazey travel agent.

But at least the wheels of justice are turning...

I'm going to search the web for her booking photo - curious about the green hair!

Posted by
4031 posts

Kathy, so glad to see something being done. I am disturbed however, by your comment:

AIG/Travelguard has denied our claims and appeals. Clever legal-ese wording allows them to deny many claims. There are over 130 complaints on the BBB website because of denials.

Or saddened, disappointed... We just bought Travelguard for our upcoming RS tour. They were very helpful a few years ago when I fell ill in Sicily, but I didn't have a claim to file.

Posted by
6811 posts

As post #101, I want to say that these little victories are sweet when the situation is as bad as this has been. I'll drink to the beginning of the wheels of justice this evening and hope others join in. Cheers.

Posted by
968 posts

If this is true ... huzzah!!!
The only thing that could make me happier would be Roy Moore’s losing in Alabama!

Posted by
2336 posts

And you have that! But, to the OP-get an attorney who can go after AIG and the thief!

Posted by
2336 posts

And you have that! But, to the OP-get an attorney who can go after AIG and the thief!

Posted by
15578 posts

This might be your last chance to claim a casualty/theft loss on your taxes. Take advantage of it.

Posted by
948 posts

Sam, I hadn’t thought of that. Great idea since I took trip money out of my IRA which gives us a bigger tax liability than just our yearly distribution.

Thank you everyone for your support. You are the best. 💝

Posted by
15578 posts

I was just reading Travel Guard's terms, and they do mention this:

) Financial Default of an airline, Cruise line or tour operator
provided the Financial Default occurs more than 14 days
following an Insured's effective date for the Trip
Cancellation or Trip Interruption Benefits. There is no
coverage for the Financial Default of any person,
organization, agency, or firm from whom the Insured
purchased travel arrangements supplied by others. This
coverage applies only if insurance was purchased within 15
days of Initial Trip Payment;

This verbiage is the floor where lawyers dance. So at least consulting an attorney would be worth while.

Posted by
1843 posts

Re: TravelGuard policies, we have used them for the majority of our many, many trips. We've had to file two claims, and they were both settled quickly and according to the terms of the policies.

But, I think we need to be careful not to quote terms from any of our own current or previous policies to others on the Forum, because it is my understanding that policy language can vary by state (policies have to be filed with and approved by individual State insurance commissions).

TravelGuard also offers a selection of policies, and the coverages and terms vary by what type policy one selects for purchase. So the wording in any of my current or previous policies may not be the same as horsewoofie's policy that covered tour booked.

TravelGuard made some changes to their offerings earlier this year (at least for our state), and coverage varies significantly by WHICH policy one selects.

So, I can't just pull any one of my policies and give horsewoofie any logical, reliable advice on HER (or is it his?) policy based on what my policy says.

Be sure to review policies before purchasing, so you know WHAT you are buying and understand the terms/coverages/limits. Too many people just purchase the cheapest coverage and don't bother to understand the differences.

If one asks TravelGuard to send sample policies for the coverages you are considering, it is possible to receive those. But, at a minimum, get the sheets (which can be sent to you in PDF format) that give a bit more detail than what used to appear on the web site.

But, for an individual (not a tour operator) who defaults with one's money. Think about it. Would you cover something that broad? Think of all the PTO groups or church groups who might "organize" a tour, group of friends, garden groups, etc. If I were an insurer, I sure would not open myself up to insure the funds of any amount that were given to "just anyone" who decides to put together a group of people to travel together. Okay, even if a "travel agent," there is great risk. Financial problems are not uncommon among some small "travel agents." Well-established businesses provide more assurances, and even better if you can get some assurances of financial stability (letter from financial institution, etc. if you've never dealt with them before).

It's already been discussed, but using a credit card at least provides a level of dispute protection, and we've all now been reminded (through horewoofie's very horrible experience) to not deal with vendors who will not accept credit cards for tour payments. And, often if someone does not have a merchant account with a credit card processor, that can be a first clue of potential financial problems (that possibly they do not financially qualify for a merchant's account).

Horsewoofie, I sincerely hope that this issue will ultimately get resolved and that you see at least some of your funds returned. But, in the meantime, thank you for sharing your experience, as it provides an opportunity for us all to learn.

Posted by
11575 posts

Happy to hear that the authorities caught up with this scoundrel!

Maggie, yours was an EXCELLENT post. There are lots of variables regarding insurance, and an operator/agent who will only accept wired funds for an expensive tour would raise a big red flag for me personally, especially if it's not a well-known, long-established business, and has no online reviews (that I can find, anyway).

Posted by
17659 posts

According to this bit on the local CBS evening news tonight, she has been formally charged.

Posted by
6184 posts

If I were an insurer, I sure would not open myself up to insure the
funds of any amount that were given to "just anyone" who decides to
put together a group of people to travel together.

It makes perfect sense to me why insurers would protect themselves from these small potato third-party pass-throughs, which could be just about anyone (a travel agent, anyone who calls themselves a "travel agent", a church group, even a friend or relative of the purchaser, etc.). These third parties don't have the seizable assets that a tour provider has in case the provider goes south (which an insurer can go after). An individual can just file bankruptcy or incorporate as an LLC and protect their assets whereas this would be a lot more difficult than a cruise line or an operator that has physical stock. I booked a hotel room once with some (turned out to be) shady third party that went belly up, escaped accountability, and reincorporated under a different name. But I got my money back fast because I booked with a credit card. Lesson learned to be wary of people/companies posing as legitimate on the internet.

Travel Guard/ AIG is not the bad guy here, their policy was clear and it doesn't take a lawyer to interpret it. The bad guy was Therese. I personally wouldn't spend an extra dime fighting the insurer - they will win and you'll be out of more money. I hope Therese can offer some restitution, even if it takes her years and a payment plan. Very good news that she is being held accountable for her misdeeds.

Posted by
20638 posts

Just to follow up on Lee's posting. It did make the local Denver news last night. The report was 8 victims and $33,000. She is in custody. The reporter indicated that more may be coming forward.

With this report, your comments, and my assessment with some experience in this area is that the travel insurance will not kick in. You are dealing with contract law and your contract with the insurance company just does not cover this situation since the travel agent was not representing the tour company. Simply a third party go between and not an agent of the tour company. Not a whole lot different than if you had taken the money from you bank and was robbed on the way to pay the tour company. While you intent was to contract with the tour company, nothing happens until your money gets to the tour company and you have formally engaged the tour company in a contract to delivery a tour.

I think you are being, and maybe others, a little harsh on the insurance company. I don't think they have done anything wrong here. An insurance company will only cover what they have agreed to cover in their contract with you and not what you think the insurance should cover. You may call it "Clever legal-ese wording" but the reality is that you did not purchase a tour. You had the intent, you certainly want to do so but the reality is you just gave money to a third party. Unfortunately your fight is with the third party.

One of the problems with insurance of any kinds, and probably more so with travel insurance, is that no one reads the fine print and makes all kinds of assumptions about what is covered.

This is a very unfortunately situation that readers of this site will benefit from at your expense. In hindsight there were red flags but most of us would probably have ignored them also. There is not always justice when dealing with dishonest people.

Posted by
6184 posts

Could not have said it better/ clearer than Frank.

Posted by
11575 posts

Well done, Frank.
And certainly, red flags or not, no one wants to engage in any victim blaming. This thread has been a valuable discussion on some potential pitfalls/misunderstandings that will be helpful for other travelers. It's just sad when such education is a result of someone having stepped squarely into one of those pits? :O(

Kathy, I very sincerely hope you're having a fantastic time in Hawaii!

Posted by
30973 posts

It's wonderful to hear that this (alleged) sleazy scammer is now in custody, and hopefully she will be enjoying a lengthy vacation of her own in a hotel with bars on the windows. However I wonder how many of her victims will get even a portion of their funds back?

Posted by
7693 posts

Frank, and others, thank you for your explanations regarding the travel insurance.

Even thought I usually purchase travel insurance and read most of the verbiage, I might not have understood exactly what it meant even if I thought I did.

I appreciate the education I've received on this thread!