- 8 hotel reservations every second in the US
- 1 in 4 Americans reported booking through a fraudulent site
- Travelers who are scammed rise up to 6% since 2015
People are being scammed upon booking a room to stay. In fact, hotel booking scams present one of the significant problems in the hospitality industry not just in the US, but globally.
Hotel booking scam
The most common form of a hotel booking scam is the lookalike website. All the elements are there to make the website look legit. The problem is, the travelers would only find out later that that site is a dupe. These sites are usually small, fly-by-night websites trying to make easy money.
According to cybersecurity experts, another factor to look at leading to hotel booking scams is the proliferation of online booking options. Travelers can now go online, look for a hotel, and reserve from there. However, there are thousands of hotel booking websites as well as aggregate sites that pool these OTAs (online travel agencies).
Legit sites at the losing end
Although the consumers are at the lose-lose situation here, the legitimate websites are also losing a lot profit-wise. Consumers confuse them with the fraudulent sites and end up transacting with those.
On the part of the consumers, it doesn’t just about losing money upfront and increasing their security risks. It also means losing out on the perks and privileges that the hotel could have provided them in the first place.
What hotel guests can do
One of the critical ways to inspect the validity of the website is through a URL check. Sites that collect personally identifiable information including credit card must include the https operator. The ‘s’ actually stands for security. This protocol signals that the website is secured.
Look for the small lock symbol beside the URL too. The https protocol and the symbol goes hand in hand. If any is missing, that means it’s a dupe. Never put any credentials into the site.
While at it, even if the site is secure, there are other elements to scrutinize. Avoid websites with vague brand names. In the same way, avoid websites that include a famous brand name and add another word on it. This is a tactic to confuse the consumers some more.
Take note of how the website processes modes of payment. A scam booking website would usually ask for full advance payment. No legit hotels can do this; it’s either a deposit or cash on arrival.
Aside from this, use your credit card, not your debit card. It is easier to retract if, in case, a scam is afoot.
Browsing the website, you may always call the hotline to verify. Calling the site directly is the next best thing. Do this before you book any room not right after.