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BBB Tip: Beware of 5 common hotel scams

More consumers are traveling this summer as COVID-19 restrictions ease. If your plans include a hotel stay, remember that tourists can be easy targets for scammers.

“With this time of year being vacation season, consumers have so many choices which makes the risk of getting scammed so much higher,” said Vee Daniel, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate. “Don’t become a hotel scam victim. Do your research, and don’t give anyone your credit card or bank information without making sure you know who you are talking to.”

The American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Better Business Bureau say to be on the lookout for five common hotel scams before and during your stay.

Fake Website

When making online hotel reservations, make certain the website is legitimate. Scammers are known for creating look-alike web pages to lure consumers into providing credit card information.

Fake Food Delivery

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Make sure the menus left in the hotel room are authentic. Scammers will distribute fake menus to rooms with phone numbers that connect the caller to them instead of the hotel or a legitimate restaurant. They will collect the callers credit card information over the phone then never deliver food. Before ordering out, do some research and make sure the business exists. Consult with the front desk for restaurant recommendations.

Fake Front Desk Calls

Hotel guests may receive a late-night phone call from someone impersonating the front desk. The caller asks for credit card information claiming there’s a problem with the credit card on file. They may say it was declined, they need to re-verify payment information or that they lost all of the financial information and need to run an audit by a certain time.

The scammer will offer to take your credit card information over the phone, so that you’re not inconvenienced. However, a real hotel staff member will never ask for your credit card information over the phone at odd hours of the night well after you’ve checked in and will always ask to settle up any charges at the front desk. Always notify the hotel management of any calls of this nature.

“Free” Wi-Fi Connections

When staying at a hotel, free internet access is often touted as a benefit of being a guest, however, this also provides scammers an “in.” Wireless internet “skimming” targets travelers with the promise of free internet access. This usually appears in the common areas of the hotel. The connection is free to access but it’s not safe. Most of the time a hotel scam artist is controlling the connection through their computer, collecting all the data the traveler transmits – websites accessed, passwords used, card information, etc. Before joining a network, make sure the Wi-Fi connection is secure and hosted through the hotel. Many secured connections require a two-step verification process. Instead, consider using your cellphone provider network after checking the data usage allowed or your provider’s hotspot, if available.

Checkout Scam

When checking into a hotel, the front desk always asks to give a form of payment to keep on file, such as a credit or debit card, for incidentals. However, at checkout guests can decide to pay with another method, such as cash.
No matter what payment method is used, get a receipt. This provides a record of all charges during the stay so if the payment changes from credit to cash, you can dispute any charges to the credit card on file if that should happen and have the receipt to prove it. The best way to prevent being scammed at checkout is to use the form of payment that you put on file when checking in. Consider using a credit card versus a debit card.

If you encounter a scam, you can report it to BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/scamtracker.

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