Puerto Vallarta is every sunseeker's dream destination. Sitting on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, this vibrant city is packed with secret beaches and other natural landmarks that have kept tourists coming back for years. On the downside, travel scams are still a major problem, with the practice increasing by 200% in the last 3 years.
Even though Mexico has now reached its safest epidemiological levels since Covid first started, also ranking as the most popular destination for American travelers, readers should take it with a pinch of salt, as every hour an average of 7.91 tourists get scammed when buying vacation packages for Puerto Vallarta.
Here is all you need to know about the city's connection to the so-called ‘ghost agencies' and how to avoid them when booking your next trip:
Puerto Vallarta Vacationers At Higher Risk Of Being Scammed
As reported by Juan Felipe Lozano Rodríguez, the President of AMAV, an acronym for Mexican Association of Western Travel Agencies, fake travel packages across the Jalisco state, which includes the city of Puerto Vallarta, have shot up by a baffling 200% in recent years.
While Mr. Rodríguez has not shared what is behind the data, he made this affirmation ‘without fear of being mistaken'. It also follows recent reports of internet frauds during the holidays, as scammers prey on vacationers with an interest in popular beach destinations, such as Puerto Vallarta or Cancun.
According to Ricardo Sheffield Padilla, a spokesperson for Mexico's Office of the Federal Prosecutor for the Consumer (Profeco), customers are at an increased risk of being scammed when booking packages through unlicensed companies on social media, particularly Facebook, where several ghost agencies operate.
Mr. Padilla reminded vacationers that ‘there are no super offers' that will get them to Cancun starting at only a hundred pesos, ‘not even to Xochimilco', he added ironically.
Xochimilco is a borough of Mexico City, situated 14 miles away from the capital's historical center and famous for its Aztec-era canals.
Ghost Agencies Intensify Their Operations Around Mexico During The Pandemic
While Mexico has clampled down on cybercrimes following consecutive reports of fraud, the problem persists. As mentioned above, Puerto Vallarta has seen 7.91 cyber frauds every hour throughout the Covid pandemic, while Mexico as a whole registered an average of 250 scams per hour, describes the President of AMAV.
As a matter of fact, criminal organizations have intensified their scamming practices during the Covid pandemic, especially after Mexico emerged as one of the leading destinations in the world due to its less-strict approach to Covid management.
Mr. Rodríguez also criticized a lack of stricter regulations, as those selling packages online often ‘do not need experience' or fail to observe certain protocols. Many scammers have also identified it as an opportunity to target vulnerable tourists.
How To Avoid Being Scammed?
He urged vacationers to exercise caution when buying packages online especially during holiday periods, ‘when fraud in travel agencies tends to increase'. Some bullet points were also listed in order to help online buyers avoid scams, including the following:
- Speaking directly with the hotel or airline included in the package to make sure the offer is genuine;
- Verify that the travel agency is associated with Tourism Boards or other tourism associations;
- Check their status on Mexico's SAT System, the country's Tax Administration Service;
- Always request an invoice for online purchases.
Mr. Rodríguez concludes by recommending that customers buy their vacations through an agency that is affiliated with an association or some official institution, because ‘at the end of the day we are the ones that verify that they meet the minimum requirements and that they are registered with the General Secretariat of Tourism; and obviously, that they are registered on SAT.'
There are currently 85 travel agencies registered with AMAV.
In the State of Jalisco, Viajes Kan Baálam is the only registered company currently shown on the platform.
Besides following the official advice, we would also like to remind our readers to check online reviews for the company before booking any trips, as well as their social media channels.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.