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Fake travel agency scams on the rise in Mexico

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Scammers will often lure their victims in with promises of heavily discounted rates at hotels in Cancún or the Mayan Riviera. Photo: Carlos Rosadovan der Gracht

Action is needed to combat the growth of fraudulent travel agencies in Mexico, says the county’s travel agents association. 

The solution suggested by the association is to enforce strict regulations which would compel all travel agencies to be part of a national association, with a focus on accountability.

However, such a plan would also require a massive information campaign about the association and the growing threat posed by fake agencies.

“The problem is that by the time the customer realizes he or she has been defrauded, there is usually no recourse, as these fake agencies tend to be fly-by-night operations,” says Eduardo Paniagua Morales, president of Mexico´s travel agency association, AMAV.  

Most fraudulent travel agencies operate entirely online through their own websites or on Facebook groups. 

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To avoid accountability these fake agencies tend not to publish addresses or phone numbers and do most of their “business” through messaging apps like Facebook messenger, warn experts. 

The most common type of scam includes the fraudulent sale of heavily discounted flights and or travel packages to domestic and international destinations. 

Another common type of travel fraud takes the form of email phishing scams which convincingly copy the brand identity of established travel companies to lure unsuspecting customers. 

“If the scammers feel they can get away with it, they will even contact victims again asking for more money to cover some previously unmentioned tax or surcharge. This is a major warning sign,” says Yucatán’s travel agency association president, David Escalante Lombard.

Oftentimes, defrauded customers don’t even realize that they have been scammed until they reach the airport or hotel only to find no bookings in their name.

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