Cheryl Parson: Traveling? When booking a hotel room, use cautious online practices
Hallelujah! The country is rapidly re-opening for business after the crushing pandemic closings. With a growing feeling of liberation, Americans are primed for vacation travel again! In fact, according to a recent Skift Resource Travel Tracker survey, more than 70% of Americans intend to travel in 2021.
That means a crush of anxious people are booking rooms and staying in hotels. As we’ve said before, anytime there is news affecting a lot of people, scammers take notice. They know anxious people are easy targets in their never-ending goal of separating people from their cash.
Scammers also know, historically, hotels have been easy paths to their targets. If you are planning on traveling and staying in a hotel room soon, be aware of several scams being imposed on travelers.
Scammers are smart. They begin their efforts to rip people off by focusing on websites where travelers hope to find the best hotel deals. Scammers are notorious for copying legitimate, trusted websites to lure victims into willingly providing credit card information.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) advises that, whenever possible, book a room directly from the official website of the hotel chain. When you do this, you are working directly with the business, and you are certain of the legitimacy of the reservation. An added bonus could be getting loyalty points if you participate in the hotels program.
Use cautious online practices. Searching the internet using terms such as “cheapest rates” or “best deals” can often lead to deceptive travel sites that look official but aren’t. Such sites many times use actual logos of legitimate hotels and sometimes slip the hotel’s name into a portion of the web address to make it appear legit. Do a quick double-check to verify the website address before providing your credit card data.
Planning as far ahead as you can to assure booking availability will often garner the best hotel deals, too. It also gives you time to research different sites, compare options, and lock in good rates.
There are many reputable websites and third-party sources. Consider a local travel agency with a good reputation. They have ways of finding really good deals that may not appear in online sources. Third-party online sources such as Priceline, Kayak, Travelocity, and others are viable options as well, but as we discussed earlier, double-check to make sure you are visiting the legitimate site and not a bogus one.
Regardless of whether it is a hotel booking or any other online purchase, always look for the lock symbol that indicates you are dealing with a secured purchasing system. As we’ve said in the past, the URL should start with HTTPS not just HTTP (The extra “S” indicates it is a secure site).
Scammers will also target you once you’ve checked in. Here are a couple schemes to look out for:
Fake Food Delivery: Scammers often place bogus restaurant menus in rooms, hoping victims will call them to order food and unwittingly give them their credit card number. Always check with the front desk to make sure the restaurant is legit.
Fake Calls From The Front Desk: In this common scam the victim gets a call in the middle of the night, supposedly from the front desk, saying there was a problem with the credit card provided at check-in. The “front desk” caller hopes to use the fog of sleep to lure a groggy victim into giving credit card and other personal information.
We encourage you to check with us at the BBB to make sure the places you are dealing with have a good reputation with previous customers.
Travel safely, have fun and book wisely!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.