Booking a trip or on the road to nowhere? ‘Holiday Swindling’ in South Africa | #daitngscams | #lovescams

With COVID restrictions eased and South Africans eager to travel, many have forked out fortunes to explore the world once more. Just as dating apps blew up with lonely hopefuls after the pandemic, so have holiday bookings through travel agencies. As it turns out, Simon Leviev (AKA Netflix’s Tinder Swindler) is not the only scammer out there. Others are hiding behind fraudulent travel agencies and accommodations.

‘Holiday swindling’ is the latest scam to hit headlines that’s robbing victims of millions. Unlike Tinder’s Swindler, these fake ‘businesses’ are running amok right here in South Africa.

When it comes to holiday swindling, there seems to be more than one approach to hooking victims.

First, business identity theft. Da Heim Guest House located at Sunset Beach, Table View, hasn’t made a mistake by creating two Facebook pages and two bank accounts. A scammer, allegedly named Jamie Hughes, has stolen its identity.

Management at Da Heim started getting concerned when people kept calling to ask about bookings that they had never heard about. The guesthouse, and its potential clients, have been robbed for over a year now, management told Cape {town} Etc.

A fake advertisement for Da Heim shared on Facebook by ‘Jamie Hughes’

Alleged Swindler Hughes has stolen pictures and information about Da Heim and created social media pages to lure in holiday makers. He has also listed the guesthouse on popular booking sites and promoted fake specials to ramp up his cliental. Hughes gets bookers to pay a deposit and then disappears.

A fake advertisement for a Valentine’s Day special at Da Heim

Da Heim shared bank statements, victim experiences and photographic evidence of these copycat traps, and people (and the guesthouse) have reportedly lost thousands. According to management, some guests pay deposits of R20 000 at a time.

One victim, who supplied evidence in anonymity, filed a report of fraud with ABSA and the police and had Hughes’ account frozen. However, he does allegedly have other bank accounts open with FNB and Tyme. Detailed messages between the two showcase — in depth — the manipulation and proficiency of this scammer. Da Heim told Cape {town} Etc that they have been to the police to open a case, with sufficient evidence present.

“My manager and I went to Milnerton Police station after we had heavy discussions with a group of nine people who were victims of this scam. They were standing in front of my house and after our manager explained that they were victims of a scam, they didn’t believe her and threatened her. She called me and I immediately came to the guesthouse,” the owner of Da Heim Thorsten Leich recalls.

The victims couldn’t believe that they had been scammed. They told the owner that they made reservations via popular booking sites like and Airbnb. Da Heim’s staff even tried to show the angry victims that their contact details are completely different. But they “were very aggressive, even when I explained to them that we cannot do anything,” Leich added.

Tensions were high, and one of the victims tried to assault Leich for ‘scamming’ them. A neighbourhood crime watch group had to intervene. Both sets of victims — Da Heim and scammed guests — reportedly went to the Milnerton Police station and all opened separate cases. A police officer allegedly confirmed that other cases like these have been opened. Nothing has been done.

A fraudulent quotation created for ‘Da Heim’ by ‘Jamie Hughes’

The second ‘holiday swindling’ method involves creating an entirely fake business from scratch. There’s a lovely website to look at, contacts to guide you through your holiday bookings, social media pages, and package deals generously compiled for you. Hello Darlings is an example.

The Hello Darlings CEO allegedly booked fake holidays at luxurious destinations across the world for her clients. But none of them made it to the airport despite money flying out of their accounts.

A group has subsequently formed on Telegram and has racked up over 2000 members, all of whom are alleged victims of Hello Darlings. The information posted on the group indicates that each family or person lost an average of R75 000. Do the math and this scammer allegedly robbed innocent holiday hopefuls of more than a million rand.

Before you point any fingers, you need to hear the Simon Leviev level of tactic behind this sick trick. The ‘CEO’ of the agency baited her hook well. She is said to have roped in social media influencers to promote her business, offering them discounted and free holidays in return for exposure. Not only this, but some people allegedly did get their holiday after paying.

One victim told Business Insider that her mother booked a seamless vacation through Hello Darlings, but all she got was taken for a ride. The CEO waited for her ‘business’ to gain a bit of traction, get a few good references and reviews, and then went in with dodgy motives. She disappeared with clients’ cash. According to Telegram, more than 2000 clients’ worth of cash.

As with Da Heim, majority of the Hello Darlings victims have reportedly taken their cases to the police but nothing has been done. It’s likely that the 2000 cases will have to be compiled to take matters further.

It’s important to keep in mind that the reputations of businesses roped into these scams should not be tarnished. They too are victims.

Bookings for Da Heim can be made via [email protected] Visit for more information or call +27 (21) 555 1820 to confirm that you have the right place. Da Heim does not take any bookings through Facebook.  The guesthouse is gorgeous. Take a look:

Also read:

WATCH: “I am not the Tinder Swindler,” Simon Leviev finally speaks out

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