Mayor Benjamin Magalong and City Tourism Officer Aloysius Mapalo have warned tourists anew against scams on accommodation establishments that continue to victimize unsuspecting visitors.
The mayor said he has been receiving complaints, the latest of which involved a scammer who goes by the name Ma Ria in social media who allegedly collected P17,000 from a tourist.
The mayor directed the Baguio City Police Office Anti-cybercrime Unit to investigate the complaints.
“To the tourists, please do not trust social media advertisements as scammers now use downloaded photos and information of legitimate accommodation establishments and pretend to be agents or co-owners. After sending your reservation fee or downpayment, they will block your social media account,” he said.
Mapalo agreed most of the scamming modus happen on social media.
“While many legitimate businesses engage with their customers through social media, prudence and vigilance on unscrupulous entities must still be observed,” he said.
He advised visitors to transact only with accommodation establishments listed under visita.baguio.gov.ph.
“Before sending your downpayment, you may call our 24/7 hotline 446-2009 to verify if the person that you are transacting with is really affiliated with legitimate AEs. We will coordinate with your chosen accommodation establishment.
Tourists may also call or text the following contact numbers: 0956-572-9097 (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.), 0956-572-9093 (2 to 11 p.m.) or 0956-572-9094 (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.),” Magalong said.
He also offered some red flags that should warn people, such as too good to be true travel packages or all-in packages (transport, accommodation, food, tours, and tickets) that are unrealistically cheap.
The Philippine Statistics Authority had estimated that a regular domestic tourist in Baguio spends an average of P2,700 per day.
An establishment with no business permit and no official receipt is also another red flag and those with no official public website or social media page. Legitimate businesses will promote their services on public and well-recognized online platforms, usually with customer reviews and ratings.
Establishments whose social media account is just recently created should also be validated. Not all new websites or accounts are illegal, but scammers have the propensity for deleting old accounts and then will create new accounts, using different names every time.
Those offering processing of personal requirements could be scammers. Scammers will offer ready-made IDs, Covid test results, QTPs or any QR codes and other documents that the tourists should be processing themselves.
Tourists must also be vigilant against those offering services that are actually non-compliant with entry protocols and those whose declared address is non-existent. – Aileen P. Refuerzo