Independent Online

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Hello Darlings CEO dubbed ’holiday swindler’ allegedly fleeces more than R100m from unwitting South Africans

A South African businesswoman has allegedly swindled R100 million out of residents, through a fraudulent travel agency company called ’Hello Darlings’.

A South African businesswoman has allegedly swindled R100 million out of residents, through a fraudulent travel agency company called ’Hello Darlings’.

Published Mar 8, 2022

Share

Durban: A South African businesswoman has allegedly swindled R100 million out of residents, through a fraudulent travel agency company called “Hello Darlings”.

The Hello Darlings CEO allegedly booked fake holidays at luxurious destinations across the world for her clients but never delivered on the agreements.

Story continues below Advertisement

A group, which was formed on social media site Telegram and has close to 2 000 members, has been trying to bring the fraudster to justice and get the money back.

The information posted on the group indicates that each family or person lost an average of R75 000.

Based on this, members of the group estimate that up to or even more than R100m may have been stolen from unsuspecting holiday makers.

Story continues below Advertisement

Information coming through on the group indicates that the CEO might have fled the country.

One of the victims, Suhaifa Naidoo, told IOL on Tuesday that her family collectively paid around R500 000 to Hello Darlings, only to find out later that it was a scam.

But it wasn’t always a scam. The fox was let into the henhouse, according to several group members who blamed social media influencers for promoting the company.

Story continues below Advertisement

Members in the group said the female CEO used prominent influencers and gave them free or discounted holidays in order for them to market Hello Darlings.

A recreation of the popular Netflix show banner, the “Tinder Swindler”. Image: Facebook - @Zak Suleman

Thereafter, a first batch of holidaymakers used the company to travel.

Story continues below Advertisement

Once more people started booking holidays, the CEO allegedly disappeared with client payments.

But sources say Hello Darlings was exposed on Instagram months ago, when the company could not pay back refunds.

Naidoo said her mother went on a trip with Hello Darlings and had “no problems whatsoever”. That was when she decided to use the company to book a holiday to the Maldives.

After a lack of communication between her and the administrators, Naidoo contacted the hotel that Hello Darlings told her she would be staying at. The hotel confirmed that no booking was made.

The message which Suhaifa Naidoo received from the Emerald Resort in the Maldives, informing her that the travel agent did not make a booking. Image: Supplied by Suhaifa Naidoo

A man from Johannesburg, who spoke to IOL on the grounds of anonymity, said he paid R38 000 to secure a trip to the US. His sister also paid a deposit for a trip to the Maldives.

If you have booked a holiday with Hello Darlings and have not heard from the company about your booking, you can join the Telegram group and fill out a form detailing the amount you lost.

The form requires you to have a police case number. Victims are also urged to report the matter to their bank.

Both the bank and police require you to have the proof of payment made to Hello Darlings, with the respective bank account numbers involved.

A majority of members on the group have opened up a case with the police and have been asked to follow the necessary process. It is possible that police will have to merge the cases into one in order for an investigation.

IOL

Share