Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Yan Krukov.
Travel Booker Required To Pay Back $155K After Scamming Travelers
Scamming is at an all-time high in the United States and the travel and tourism industry is no exception. However, a California travel booker is learning the hard that wrongfully taking funds comes with a hefty penalty. After she scammed 37 travelers out of over 150 thousand dollars, travel booker Wendy Tenedora Wong is in hot water for her shady actions.
On August 23, Wong pleaded guilty to two felony counts. She’d initially been facing 50 charges following years of wrongdoing through her company House of Aloha Hawaii, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. To avoid jail time, Wong has to pay back $155,002.32 in restitution to 37 victims before her sentencing on November 4th.
A History of Scheming
There Are More Victims Out There
Wong only has to pay back a portion of the funds she’s stolen from travel booking clients throughout the years. In total, there were 48 victims who lost over $200,000 due to Wong’s booking scam. However, not all the victims requested to receive restitution.
Unfortunately, avid travelers were not the only victims of Wong’s scam. Her parents spoke with ABC News 7 and confirmed they had also been scammed by their daughter’s company. Wong’s father, who goes by Junior, emailed the following statement to the news affiliate:
“Thank you for the opportunity and trust that your investigative journalism will provide relief for some of the victims and perhaps, more importantly, prevent future victims. The Tenedora family grieves over the devastating losses to so many including several of them. Innocent victims will never get their dream vacations or the weddings of their dreams. No one will ever be paid back, the money is gone. Aside from stealing their money, betraying childhood friends, family and their referrals is heinous. House of Aloha is nothing more than a House of Cards, House of Deceit and Lies.”
Wong’s father and stepmother claim she owes them over $20,000. Although she declined to comment, Wong emailed the news station after the story ran saying the following:
“Those that know the history between my dad, my stepmom, and I, are not surprised by their actions. They are evil people. Who does this to their children? He is SPEAKING on his own behalf.”
If Wong fails to pay the restitution by the deadline, she risks being sentenced to one year of jail time and a year of mandatory supervision. Although paying back the victims would evade jail, she would still have two felony convictions and two years of probation, according to the DA’s Office.
Protecting Yourself From Travel Scams
No one wants to get scammed especially when they are spending thousands of dollars on a vacation. While there is never a guaranteed way to avoid scam artists posing as travel agents, there are a few steps you can take to avoid scheming travel agents as best as you can.
The first thing you should do is double-check the credibility of a travel booker before sending them funds. This includes checking reviews on social media as well as on the Better Business Bureau website. It also never hurts posting a quick Facebook status or Tweet asking if anyone you know has ever booked through that agency. This will give you firsthand feedback from travelers who’ve worked with that agency in the past.
Another step you can take is confirming the travel booker has the proper bonds, licensing, and protection required for travel agencies in that state. Every US state requires travel agency bonds. These bonds protect against unscrupulous or unethical practices on the part of the travel service through surety bond regulations. If the travel agent you’re considering booking through doesn’t have the proper bonds, you may want to reconsider.
Lastly, check in with all affiliate organizations and companies to ensure your bookings and rates are in accordance with what the travel booker is telling you. If they are booking you hotel, flight, and excursions, call those places to confirm the bookings have been locked in and the dates. This will help you avoid people like Wong and other agents who take your money with no intent of ever booking your travel.