Isla Mujeres, an island off the Cancun shore, has skyrocketed in popularity in recent times, even breaking tourism records in 2023.
While formerly a day trip destination for Cancun tourists, more and more travelers are choosing to stay overnight, and often longer, at this gorgeous island.
This is mainly due to the growing number of excellent accommodation options, which range from budget-friendly condos to highly exclusive resorts.
Unfortunately, as the number of low-cost accommodation options rises, so does the number of scammers targeting tourists in order to make a quick buck.
This phenomenon has been called out on several social media platforms, highlighting that instances of identity theft, fake listings, and hacked email accounts are on the rise.
@thelesbianpassport you’re going to want to save this 🔖🏼 #islamujeres #exploremexico #solotravel #travelguide #solofemaletravel #traveltips #budgettravel #greenscreen ♬ original sound – Allyssa | LGBTQ+ Travel
So, how does exactly this type of scam work, and what can you do to avoid it when planning your Isla Mujeres getaway? Let’s find out.
How The Scam Works
There isn’t a single modus operandi scammers use when targeting tourists, but most of them do display some type of red flag – which unfortunately isn’t always easy to detect.
One huge red flag is when an online accommodation listing features a price that seems too good to be true.
Capitalizing on attractive rates, scammers typically request a deposit and then provide visitors with non-existent or significantly misrepresented lodgings.
@wildjunkettravel THE SEASHELL HOUSE 🐚 I’d been wanting to stay at this iconic Airbnb for years, but it was always fully booked for months in advance. Surprisingly, it was available on my birthday weekend this year so I had to book it fast (even thou it cost me $400/night)! So was it worth the $400 price tag? Honestly, NO. The house is clearly a labor of love, but the owner clearly hasn’t given it much love in recent years. It’s been around for a few decades now, and really needs some upgrades and maintenance. The cracked windows seem to have just been reinforced rather than replaced, the sliding doors are coated in rust, and the pool has definitely seen better days. Yes, the Seashell House is unique and full of character. It brings out the essence of Isla Mujeres and it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular Airbnbs in the world. There are 2 bedrooms, so if you split the cost between 2 families or 4 individuals, it’s not that much. But I feel like the owner should be using the profits to upkeep the house and bring it back to how it was in its heydays. Here’s hoping the Seashell House can get some love it deserves. #seashellhouse #islamujeres #shellhouse #casacaracol #casacaracolislamujeres #islamujerescancun #islamujeresmexico #mexico #mexicoisland #mexicotravel #mexicolindo #islandlife #airbnbhomes #airbnbtravel #uniqueairbnb ♬ original sound – WildJunket
However, a more insidious tactic involves the actual theft of the property owner’s identity.
In this scenario, scammers steal information from legitimate home, apartment, or condo listings, leaving the actual property owner surprised when visitors arrive without prior notice or reservation details.
By the time the parties involved realize what’s going on, the scammer has vanished without a trace.
This deceptive practice is unfortunately more common than one might imagine, with social media groups frequently reporting instances of scammers creating fake versions of legitimate listings by stealing information from authentic property owners.
@sacred_sav Travel Guide to Isla Mujeres #carribeantravel #islamujeresmexico #travelitenerary #quintanaroo #greenscreen ♬ Drake style/HIPHOP beat(1491552) – Burning Man
To add insult to injury, some scammers don’t even try too hard to conceal their identity, even using their own name on the listing.
How To Avoid The Scam
The idea of getting caught up in this growing scam can be scary, but the good news is there are a few practical steps you can take to avoid it.
If you go for a well-known, established, all-inclusive resort, the chances of falling for this scam are pretty low, as the problem mostly targets vacation rentals, especially the more affordable ones.
To make sure your accommodation is safe and steer clear of this tricky scam, follow these simple recommendations:
Do Your Research
- Stick to well-known websites and platforms when booking.
- Check reviews from previous guests to get an idea about the property and owner.
- Double-check property details and location using different sources.
Verify The Owner’s Identity
- Talk directly with the owner using trusted channels.
- Be cautious if the property owner can’t provide proper documentation and is rushing you for quick decisions and payments.
- Be alert of unresponsive or unprofessional-sounding messaging
If It’s Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
- Be careful with listings that have suspiciously low rates.
- Compare the listing with others in the same area for a realistic price comparison.
- Stay alert even if the website looks genuine.
- Always ensure the ‘https’ encrypted connection on your browser to protect your personal information.
By following these tips, your chances of falling victim to these types of scams will be drastically reduced.
Other Common Isla Mujeres Scams To Keep An Eye On
Sadly, this scam isn’t the only one you could encounter on Isla Mujeres getaway – from fake jewelry schemes to overpriced taxi fares and bogus tour operators.
The infamous bill swap scam is quite common in Mexico, as the 50 and 500 pesos bills look quite similar. So, always make sure to double-check!
That said, it’s worth noting that these kinds of scams are not uncommon in most tourist hotspots, and most can be avoided by exercising common sense precautions and always booking on reputable platforms.
Moreover, a majority of tourists visiting Isla Mujeres leave without any incidents of this nature, as it stands as one of the safest destinations not only in the Mexican Caribbean but the whole country.
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