March 1, 2024 Alfred P. Dalizon 120 views

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday urged the public to be wary of so-called “vacation scams” in which con artists are offering “too good to be true” prices for travel abroad or in the provinces complete with hotel accommodations.

According to the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group, it has documented 478 cases of vacation scam or accommodation/travel and tour scams which reveal a concerning upward trend since 2021.

PNP-ACG director, Major General Sidney S. Hernia said there were 39 cases in 2021, 91 cases in 2022, 313 cases in 2023 and from January to February this year alone, 35 cases.

Vacation scam is an ICT-enabled crime in which criminals impersonate legitimate establishments, offering online accommodation services at lower prices than usual.

However, upon arrival, victims find their reservations nonexistent in the establishment’s system, revealing the scam.

Hernia said that when planning a vacation, everybody must exercise utmost caution to evade potential scams.

“Conduct thorough research, rely on trusted websites for bookings, and refrain from providing personal or financial details online without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient. By staying vigilant, you can protect yourself and enjoy a worry-free vacation experience,” he said.

“It is indeed important to be wary of unrealistic deals and always read reviews from other travelers. Also, if something seems suspicious, report it to the authorities,” the PNP-ACG director added.

PNP spokesperson, Colonel Jean S. Fajardo also warned the public to closely watch for this scam.

“We would like to take this opportunity to warn our public to be extra vigilant. This is not limited to vacation scams, even those providing services, lalo na kung may kapalit agad na pera, this should be a case for worry,” she said.

Fajardo called on travelers to ensure that they check the legitimacy of the websites and travel agencies offering “too good to be true” tour packages.

“Sabik ang mga travelers within Asia. So if it’s a too good to be true offer, probably it is not true. Hindi po lahat ng nago-offer ng cheap tour packages eh totoo na so we should all deal with accredited hotels, travel agencies, etc.,” the PNP spokesperson said.

Fajardo has advised travelers to compare the prices being offered by legitimate travel agencies or airline companies with that being offered by suspicious individuals or groups. In short, always be cautions when clicking links, she added.

The official urged the public to exercise due diligence when it comes to online bookings and to check with the Department of Tourism and airline companies the legitimacy of travels abroad being offered for very low prices.

“If you wish to go to Visayas, for example, check with friends of the local police and ask their assistance in checking cheap tour packages being offered online,” Fajardo said.

She said that part of the modus operandi is that the victims would be asked to pay a down payment and sometimes, even full payment.

Once the payment has been made, the suspects will immediately block the accounts of their victims so they can’t contact them again.

Fajardo said they need the full cooperation of the public in addressing the problem. She said that in case one falls victim to the scam, one must do a screen grab of the suspect’s previous communications so that it could be used as evidence in court once the victim decides to pursue formal charges against the scammers.

She said that the presence of numerous fake accounts being created by scammers is also a main concern of the force since they need the full assistance of telecommunications companies and the Department of Information Communications Technology in tracing the suspects.