|Bui Thi Hai An, a student in Melbourne, said she had a return ticket (as shown) but she found out her name was not available on a flight to Viet Nam when she checked in at an airport in Melbourne. — Photo courtesy of VDS
HA NOI (VNS) — Australia's New South Wales (NSW) police yesterday started collecting information related to a swindle of hundreds of Vietnamese students from fake air tickets sold through Facebook.
Initial information indicates that the mastermind behind the case was one or a group of Vietnamese people in Australia, Vietnam News Agency representative in the country reported.
NSW investigators have worked with Viet Nam Airlines representative office in Sydney, the Vietnamese Dynamic Students (VDS) in New South Wales and some students who are victims of the deceit.
According to statistics collected by VDS chairman on Wednesday, more than 300 Vietnamese students in Sydney and Melbourne, Victoria said they had been deceived to buy cheap air tickets of Vietnam Airlines to return home through a Facebook account named Vi Tran.
They paid Vi Tran a total amount up to Au$500.000 (US$355,000). The case is reported to be the biggest ever related to Vietnamese students in Australia, Vietnam News Agency wrote.
According to victims, all conversations and return air ticket bookings were made through Facebook and phones with a female called Vi Tran, and they had no idea if she was a ticket agent of Vietnam Airlines.
After initial bookings, students were required to transfer money into bank accounts, three of which have been identified including two belonging to air ticket agencies, and were said they would receive seat reservation information or e-tickets. They only knew the tickets were fake at check-in or when they did not receive tickets.
The Facebook account named Vi Tran has been closed for one week and her phones are off.
Bui Thi Hai An, a student in Melbourne said, she bought two Vietnam Airlines return tickets from Vi Tran four months in advance. On December 19, when she and her younger sister checked-in at an airport in Melbourne, it turned out their names were not available on the flight to Viet Nam. She managed to phone Vi Tran who then bought their new tickets to fly to Viet Nam by Thai Airway. On Tuesday, An called Vi Tran, who then promised her two tickets back to Australia on January 26. But on Wednesday, Vi Tran was found nowhere as the Facebook account was close and the phone was off.
According to the victims, Vi Tran had sold air tickets to Viet Nam on Facebook for more than a year. Initially, to gain trust, Vi Tran offered air tickets at a very low price (return tickets sold on Facebook were usually Au$300 and Au$700 cheaper than those sold at official agencies). Then, Vi Tran's prestige quickly spread through word of mouth among the community of Vietnamese students in Australia. Therefore, many students, including those who used to be vigilant over on-line trade, were willing to transfer money through Facebook communications.
January is usually a peak time to buy air tickets to return to Viet Nam as the traditional Tet (Lunar New Year) is approaching, thus, many students feel puzzled and confused because of the lost money and the difficulty to buy new tickets.
Vietnamse Consul General in Sydney, Hoang Minh Son told Vietnam News Agency that he committed legal assistance as well as influence on relevant Australian authorities to facilitate investigation and find out the culprit as well as keep a close watch on the case and wait for investigation results.
Son advised students to stay calm, not follow calls for mass gatherings, abide by Australian laws and lean on official announcements from relevant authorities, not on unverified information on the internet.
A representative of Vietnam Airlines in Sydney said the firm would do their utmost and support students through resolving all queries, checking ticket status and helping students who want to repurchase tickets to go home for Tet holidays. Assistance is provided via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Vietnamese Embassy in Australia, Vietnamese General Consulate in Sydney, Viet Nam Airlines and VDS are working with Australian authorities to soon address the fraud. — VNS