Center Was One Of Many Fraudulent Companies Taking Advantage Of Pent Up Travel Demand
The State Attorney General’s Office announced that a fraudulent tourist package call center had been uncovered in a raid in Cancun on Sunday.
The operation was planned in a collaborative effort between the prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Cyber Police.
The home had been the site of a shooting just days before, where two men and a woman were injured. According to reports, several shooters unloaded their weapons at the home, causing damage to the outside of the property and a nearby vehicle, as well as the previously mentioned injuries to the three people. One of the men injured was a former policeman in the area.
The announcement was made on the Attorney General’s Twitter page, stating “the #FGEQuintanaRoo secured a property in the SM 19 of the Benito Juárez city after completing a search warrant. First acts of investigation establish that it was used as a clandestine Call Center where vacation packages were sold fraudulently”.
The scams in question involve fake companies setting up websites, building social media pages, cold calling or targeting ads that a potential victim may fall for. If successful, the victim will pay an up front cost for what they believe will be a package holiday, often including accommodation and flights. The unwitting customers part way with their money, and days later the itinerary is suddenly cancelled with no contact and the contacts for the company will often change or disappear, along with the money.
Cancun is the center of operations for more than 96% of fraudulent tourist package investigations in Mexico, in line with its reputation as the center of the country’s, and the world’s, tourism resurgence. Tourist scams are nothing new to the region, but as Cancun’s dominion in the travel industry grows, the sector’s attention has turned to combating it as aggressively as possible.
Quintana Roo has its own Cyber Police, who monitor social media pages and other mediums for potentially fraudulent set ups. It’s no easy task, as tourist scams makes up a tiny amount of a massive amount of digital fraud taking place in Mexico.
According to Association of Vacation Clubs of Quintana Roo, there are an average of 12 small fake agencies discovered every three days. The bulk of the illegal operations are directed at Mexican Nationals, but there’s been a high rise in American complaints, as well as a signifiant jump in those coming from Colombia.
Just this year, a woman from the North of Mexico paid one thousand US dollars for what she believed was the Hotel Xcaret. But with two days to spare before her trip, she received a cancellation notice, and a breakdown in contact from the confirmed fake company. After checking with the hotel to find there was never a booking in her name, she reported the situation to the cyber police, who confirmed that the company in question had several complaints to its name.
The house secured in this raid was functioning as a call center, potentially cold calling leads built from telemarketing campaigns.
As the winter season begins and the volume of tourists approach record levels, the opportunity for this kind of criminal to take advantage of traveler’s pent up demand from the pandemic grows. Hotels are expecting almost 100% capacity over the next few weeks, with millions passing through Cancun and Quintana Roo as a whole.
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