Authorities in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean have warned travelers over rising online travel agency fraud cases, which have remained a significant concern throughout the year and are expected to spike this December. With the busiest time of the year for tourism quickly approaching, officials are calling on residents and visitors to be cautious when encountering too-good-to-be-true online deals, which are more often than not scams.
Whilst authorities have ramped up efforts to stem online fraud, the issue remains pervasive, and fraudsters are employing increasingly sophisticated methods to make a quick buck at the expense of travelers. This week, officials released a new warning urging travelers to double-check before booking through online travel agencies in a final push to bring down alarming fraud levels.
The Mexican Travel Agency Association (AMAV) is the latest organization to warn tourists about the risks of online travel agencies. According to the business group, December sees some of the highest numbers of online frauds, coinciding with record-shattering arrival numbers. As the Mexican Caribbean soars in popularity, so do the number of complaints filed to authorities, who are struggling to address the issue.
Although online travel fraud remains a persistent issue around Mexico, the problem is especially bad in the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, home to some of the country’s most popular resort destinations, including the likes of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
According to Eduardo Paniagua Morales, a spokesperson for the AMAV, up to 450 cases of possible fraud are detected per day in Mexico, with a significant amount originating in the Mexican Caribbean. The official also added that online crimes have spiked significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic receded due to most physically-based travel agencies moving online. Online fraud numbers have risen by up to 50% compared to before the pandemic, he added.
Do This To Avoid Falling Victim To Online Scams
Officials say most cases of online travel agency scams happen through social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, although they can also occur on websites that appear legitimate. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud.
Price is one of the main indicators of a legitimate travel agency. Online vacation packages that offer a lot at extremely low prices are more likely than not going to be scams. Some examples might include a package that offers accommodation for several nights at 5-star resorts for just a few hundred dollars, on top of a range of exclusive activities and excursions.
Moreover, legitimate travel agencies will always use secure payment methods. Lastly, travelers are advised to double-check that their travel agency has signed up to the national travel agency registry.
Local and state authorities are currently working to address the issue and will propose new legislation to increase fines and prison sentences for convicted online criminals. Despite allocating more resources to fight online crime, police say that online crooks use advanced methods to hide their tracks.
Travelers are also urged to report any suspected cases of online fraud to local officials through Quintana Roo’s Guest Assist service, where tourists can report crime anonymously.
Aside from rising online travel agency scams, tourists headed to Cancun, and the Mexican Caribbean should also be cautious when booking online vacation rentals on platforms like Airbnb, which have come under fire for scams and frauds. The online platform has recently offered travelers several tips to book securely. Travelers can find a record number of online vacation rentals across the Mexican Caribbean, which undoubtedly offer benefits like flexibility and lower costs – when done right.
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