Social media influencer Bobby Blanco, real name Bob Sithole, entrusted a travel agency to plan a trip for him and a friend to Thailand, which would have taken place this month, but the travel agent absconded with a substantial amount totaling R200 000.
Speaking to Sunday World this week, Bobby said Eco Travel, a travel agency that is owned by Charlie van de Walt, was recommended by a friend who is a client for 15 years.
“She trusted them only for her to also get scammed in December by the very same agency that had been booking trips for her over these years. Her brother was supposed to go to Dubai in December and when he got to the airport and were handing in their passports, they were told there were no flights found under their names,” said Bobby.
Bobby contacted Van de Walt via WhatsApp to plan a trip for him and a friend, which was set to take place on January 7-18.
“She did not waste time and sent me different options. Thereafter we told her we wanted different hotels and flights to the ones they were offering in the packages.”
Van de Walt changed the hotel and flight and sent through an invoice and insisted they needed to pay half of the amount at that time, to secure the flights.
“My friend paid her the full amount, and I paid her R30 000 on November 4, 2023, and later paid R66 750 in December. She never sent us the booking confirmation. What she did was send us a fake itinerary, but when we checked the reference with the airways site, we could not locate our flights.”
They called the airline which confirmed there were no booked flights in their names.
Bobby said after requesting Van de Walt to send them their flight tickets, she went silent. On the day they were supposed to travel, she said she would try to get back their money from the airline, he added.
“When my friend requested the money because we had found another agency she panicked. I then started becoming vocal about the matter when I realised that I had been scammed. I then started getting DMs from other people also sharing stories of being scammed by the same woman.”
Bobby said he received an email from another guy about how Van de Walt scammed him. She booked flights but did not book his accommodation.
Colonel Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said a fraud case had been opened and that no one has been arrested yet. Yesterday, Van de Walt told Sunday World she had also opened criminal cases against Bobby’s “unlawful actions”. She added that he had defamed her by posting negative comments about her on social media.
Van de Walt referred us to her attorney for further comments on the matter. Her lawyer had not responded to us by the time of going to print yesterday.
“Bobby’s unlawful actions and threats have been escalated to SAPS (SA Police Service); we have two cases open against him,” said Van de Walt.