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Digital advocacy group urges vacationers: stick to legitimate booking platforms

Digital Pinoys

A network of digital advocates is urging vacation goers to utilize legitimate accommodation and destination booking platforms for the upcoming summer break.

Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald Gustilo said that legitimate booking platforms provide security for its users and vets listed accommodations prior to the website and online app onboarding.

“Transactions with legitimate and reputable online booking platforms are safer and more secured as they employ a stringent vetting process before onboarding accommodations. They also allow visitor reviews and usually have 24/7 live customer support in case things go south. It is more reliable for the users and as well as to people offering their properties as accommodation.”

Facebook staycation scams

Gustilo said that the group is expecting a spike of complaints from people victimized by scammers posing as legitimate summer destination providers as scammers still proliferate in Facebook groups.

“In all Facebook groups specifically for vacation destinations, we have observed that there is always a report of a scammer victimizing accommodation seekers. The scammers usually steal photos from legitimate resorts and vacation homes and post them as if they own or they are connected to the establishments and offer it for a very low price which makes it enticing to would-be victims.”

Gustilo added that the scammers also use stolen identities by creating fake accounts of a reputable or seemingly trustworthy individual and even provide fake identification cards.

“The scammers usually create fake accounts and dupe victims by even sending identification cards which were either taken from legitimate destination owners and providers or by simply purchasing fake identification cards. If a vacation goer falls for their trap, the scammer will then provide their e-wallet account details where you will send the supposed deposit for the accommodation.”

Avoiding scammers

Gustilo said that the public should be more wary when transacting online and reminded vacation goers to do a thorough legitimacy check before paying and urged them to book accommodation via reputable online booking services.

“The best thing to do is still to book the accommodation via a reputable online booking service. That way, there is a level of assurance that you will not be scammed. However, if they cannot avoid booking via social media, they should ensure that the person they are transacting to is legitimate. The public should learn how to check the legitimacy of a person offering accommodation and other vacation activities. First, make sure that the accommodation has reviews from other users. If someone you know has already stayed there, it is much better. Video-calling the other party is also being done nowadays.

DOT intervention sought

Gustilo is also urging the Department of Tourism to investigate and take steps to stop the proliferation of vacation destination scammers as it dents the efforts of the government to market the Philippines as a safe tourist destination.

“The DOT should investigate these cases and come up with a solution. They can start streamlining the accreditation process and making it easier and accessible even to more affordable stays such as staycation homes and Homestays and family inns. With the accreditation list, DOT can launch an app which also serves as a directory where tourists can look for accommodations. If even the cheapest yet decent accommodations and destination stays are accredited and listed, it will be harder for scammers to victimize people.

Reference: Ronald Gustilo, Digital Pinoys National Campaigner, www.digitalpinoys.org

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