Safety Tips Could Help Tourists Avoid Costly Package Deal Scams
The Mexican Cyber Police Force has issued a set of safety precautions and general advice to help tourists avoid being the victims of tourist fraud. Digital fraud continues to rise along with Cancun’s popularity.
Thousands of tourists across the world fall prey to sophisticated scams luring hopeful vacationers into providing their credit card details or even just sending money to criminals-sometimes thousands of dollars.
Cancun and the rest of Quintana Roo have experienced an uptick in the problem as its popularity grows. Criminals take advantage of the increased interest in an area and are able to convince unwitting customers looking for a good deal. As travel costs soar across the world, tourists are even more likely to jump on what appears to be an amazing deal, something the criminals are using to their advantage.
One of the most popular ways of scamming tourists is setting up websites designed to look very similar to a real hotel. It may even have a booking page or other things that look official. Tourists will find these websites along with prices that draw them in before paying money for nothing. Others operate call centers that pose as a certain hotel or hotel group and offer on-the-spot deals. Some will email deals with similar-looking email addresses.
A recent example in Cancun saw scammers posing as Apple Leisure Group, using an email, phone number, and details very similar to that of the real hotels in the region. As many as forty-nine tourists were taken in by emails and phone calls offering rock-bottom vacation deals.
The Cyber Police Force recommends checking these websites very carefully. Looking at the URL along the search bar at the top can often offer clues. If the website URL has some unfamiliar-looking words or endings other than “.com” or “.mx”, look for the hotel on a trusted travel website like booking.com or Expedia.com, and compare the suggested website. If the hotel doesn’t appear, or the website linked to the travel website is different, don’t use the suspicious one.
The police also recommend avoiding any websites that open via a popup advertisement, via text, or a mailed offer. Importantly, if an offer seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Compare hotels with a similar setup, and decide if the cost seems far too low.
If a tourist does get drawn in by an offer or a more sophisticated website copy, the payment process is usually a good teller of fraud. Properly run hotels will function using official payment methods, whether an in-site portal or a known platform that does not require the customer to tell the vendor all card details. PayPal can be an uncomfortable one, as it can be used officially, but once again, checking the email with the hotel after examining the previous advice is extremely important. Double-checking the quote before paying is always good practice.
The police force also stressed that there are support channels available for any tourists concerned about fraud. Using the Guest Assist app, visitors can get in direct communication with members of the tourist board. The group has up-to-date information on every establishment in the area and can quickly confirm if a transaction is fraudulent or not.
Their databases will be able to cross-reference any website being used with the official hotels and their experience with fraud will help when a situation seems suspicious.
Catching these criminals is very complicated. Many use sophisticated VPN systems that make tracking them tough, and they will often use multiple websites at a time, so if one is taken down another goes up in its place. The best defense against tourist fraud is vigilance, common sense, and doing research on the area.
Travel-related cybercrime is surging as the tourism industry rebounds. Tourists should always consider where they are offering their personal details. Some scams may not directly take money but seek credit card details and even membership programs for loyalty miles.
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