June 1 2015

Better Business Bureau Warns of Online Hotel Booking Scams

By: Rich Hosford

Summer is the time when many people take some time off and head off to parts across the globe to relax, discover a new location and spend time with family, friends and loved ones. 


What nobody wants to do is be scammed as they plan their dream vacation. 


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers of fake websites that mimic legitimate sites used by people to book hotel rooms used to scam people out of their money. 


“You are planning a trip and need to book a hotel room,” the BBB states. “You see an online ad promoting hotel rooms at a cheap price, and you click it. You are directed to a website that looks legitimate. It may have a URL similar to the real hotel website or established third-party booking site, such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com. The website may also use the same logo, colors and/or design of the legitimate site.”


In the scam, though the website looks legitimate, it’s actually a fraud. Some work by tacking on additional fees while others will charge you for a room that doesn’t exist. Also, since most people pay through credit and debit cards, entering personal information into a scam website can put victims at risk of identity theft. 


The BBB offers some advice on spotting a fraudulent hotel booking site: 


- Don't believe what you see: The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate hotel or booking site, but that can be easily copied from the real website. 

 

- Look out for fake contact info: Some consumers report calling the 1-800 number posted on a scam hotel booking site to confirm its legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the hotel. 

 

- Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (brandwebsite.net or brandwebsite.co)

 

- Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with "HTTPS" and has a lock icon.

 

-Watch for too good to be true deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere. 

 

To learn more, check out this alert and infographic from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. 

 
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