Up to one in every 16 online room bookings is a fake, according to official figures.
The Federal Trade Commission says travellers have arrived at hotels only to learn there’s no record of their reservation, the hotel is fully booked, or they have to pay more for the only upgraded room available.
How does this happen?
You type in the name of a hotel and then click on the first result on Google. However this first result may be a scam website that looks like the real hotel site and once you enter your details – the money will disappear and you may believe you have a room booked, but in fact haven’t and you only find that out when you arrive at the hotel.
In other cases, the bogus sites actually pose as online travel agents, again using genuine logos and photos.
And in at least one reported case, a fake site had a “contact now” button that connected victims with a fully-staffed, bogus call centre.
Just because a webpage looks like the official site of your favourite hotel chain doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Before you reserve a room for your next out-of-town meeting or family vacation, make sure you know who’s at the other end of that BOOK NOW button.
Book directly through a hotel chain using the toll-free number or web address on your rewards card or in print ads.
Carry a printed copy (or an easily accessible smartphone copy) of any email confirmation you receive after making your booking.
How to Book Safely
- Check that the website address matches what you expect (you wont get a legitimate booking for Hilton hotels at fredsplumbing333.com for example)
- Book directly if possible
- Before setting out on your journey, call the hotel (using a number you know to be genuine) to confirm they’re expecting you.