The cyberspace is clogged with all manner of safari entities, advertising their products and services such as, booking options, tour packages and rates or prices, among others. While others are legitimate, many others are not; they are scams.
Like a growling hungry lion prowling, fraudsters are on the loose; be wary of their noose!
Technological advancements have made global payments easier, efficient and extremely fast, but they have also birthed a sophisticated breed of scammers of every shade. It as if scammers are moving in perfect tandem with technological innovations; the internet, especially, is swarmed with scammers seeking who to swindle and sink down at the slightest snooze or wink!
Therefore, when one is preparing for a safari trip, they need to have a solid grip on the nitty-gritties of making secure and successful transactions. Sure, one need not fall prey to the scammers’ lure!
Due diligence should therefore be taken to ascertain the authenticity of a tour operator or safari company. The following factors could be taken into consideration in determining an operator’s legitimacy.
License and Affiliation or Membership
Operating license and affiliation or membership to industry associations are key indicators in ascertaining the authenticity of a tour operator or safari company. Such documents prove the credibility of a company as they attest to the registration of the company with mandated bodies that stipulate regulatory guidelines to be adhered to.
Normally, safari companies with multiple membership are regarded to be more secure and reputable.
Registered Physical Office
Physical presence or address of a company is one of the foremost factors to be considered when assessing the legitimacy of a safari company. A reputable company ought to have a physical office from where it operates from.
Companies without a physical office should be approached with extra caution; they are red flags and difficult to locate in the event that the need to do so arises.
In an era of vibrant social media and digital marketing, companies make use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to communicate and market to their clients by way of articles, pictures and videos.
Companies with no such media presence should be engaged with extreme caution or should be avoided entirely.
A legitimate entity would most probably have a well-managed online presence with feeds that are regularly updated with quality content.
Checking for consistency, logos on such things as uniforms and cars, watermarks on photographs, can also help a great deal in judging the authenticity of the company.
Payment Mode Available
Technological innovations have made global financial transactions easier and faster but also trickier and riskier. Therefore, it is best, after taking all necessary precautions, to transact using internationally recognized payment methods like online bank transfers and credit card payments.
A good and genuine safari company must have an account with a recognized bank in the name of the registered company.
A company or an individual requesting for payments through channels like Western Union or wire transfers to their individual accounts should be avoided at best.
The communication channels used, the content and the language can also provide a vital indication of what sort of operator one Is dealing with.
A legitimate company would use formal and professional language and their content must have some semblance of identity like company logo or headed paper, proper signature at the end of email, among others.
Service Availability and Quality
Service availability and quality are other major factors that must be looked at when considering a safari company. These can help assess whether a company is authentic or to the contrary.
Quality of service and availability can be determined by having a look at the references and reviews done on the company.
Caution should however be exercised as some unscrupulous entities may advertise services that they do not even provide. Quality can be exaggerated too.
Company Reviews and References
Checking for reviews and references on a safari company can reveal a lot about it which could be used to gauge its status in terms of legitimacy and reputation.
Reviews and referrals provide first hand insights into the kind of company it is by people that have utilized their services before.
Caution must be taken at all times and it is worthwhile to remember that;
- Mostly, Discounts Could Be Costly
True to the agelong adage, ‘cheap is expensive’, most individuals are attracted to considerably lower than prevailing markets rates but unfortunately, they end up losing out. What seems so cheap may be costly.
- Due Diligence Could Give a Cue
Before making any payment, it is very important to undertake some due diligence steps to ascertain the authenticity of the tour operator or the recipient of the funds to be transferred (wired)
- Haste Could Lead to Waste
Fraudsters normally would want to pounce quickly and disappear. Therefore, they would pressure the customer to quickly transact. Caution should be taken when the purported operator pressures too much to make quick payments.
- Pay Attention to What the Websites Say
Some information about a company could be extracted from their website. Paying attention what the website says may reveal some cardinal information.
- Clues Could Prevent Blues
Some clues would give guidance as to whether the purported tour company or individual is genuine. For instance, the communication channels used, must be formal and reliable.
- Mode Of Payment should Adhere to Standard Code
A reputable tour operator must have an account with a reputable bank. Never should anyone pay for a safari trip using channels like Western Union. Payments should also be done using internationally accepted methods.
Those intending to go on a safari are urged to communicate directly with the operator using methods such as WhatsApp calls and chatting.
Relying solely on email communication is discouraged as emails are vulnerable to hacking. If emails are used, other follow-ups ways like calls and chats must be used for doublechecking purposes.
It is advisable to do some background checks on the safari operator to be engaged and always to exercise caution.
When booking for a safari, scammers may be looking! A little care could prevent a nightmare.
The Question of Deposits
It is commonplace for a would-be safari prospect to ask the question, “Why should I pay a deposit to a safari operator in Tanzania prior to traveling?”
Well, safari operators have to make reservations at hotels and make other logistical payments such as; book and reserve safari vehicle for those that outsource, process documents that may be required and meet other pre-safari expenses.
There are many things to be put in place and logistical arrangements that need to be paid for way in advance before the actual safari takes place. A deposit is therefore required to pay for such prior expenses.
The deposit helps the operator to prepare adequately for a successful and memorable safari experience.