Booking a hotel? Beware of these scams
You'd better double-check your recent online hotel reservation to make sure that you're getting exactly what you've signed up for.
A new study conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association shows that 6 percent of consumers who booked hotels online were duped by a bogus third-party online travel agency. That translates to some 15 million hotel reservations a year affected by deceptive rogue affiliates, which equates to $1.3 billion per year going to bad bookings.
The unsuspecting consumers are tricked by the ever-sophisticated scammers, who make these sites look authentic and legitimate.
"They'll use a combination of tactics to make the consumer feel like they're at the hotel website," said Maryam Cope, American Hotel & Lodging Association Vice President, Government Affairs. "They'll use fake photos. They'll have unauthorized use of the hotel's logo."
The issue is leading to more customers having their vacation or business trip ruined, or having to pay a higher rate than expected when they show up and have no actual reservation.
"One of the biggest problems with these sites is that they will go ahead and charge your credit card right then and there and then you can't cancel or change your reservation," Cope said.
The fake sites also use URLs that mimic the real, reputable sites, such as Expedia, Hotels.com, or Priceline.
"I think 99 percent of online bookings go fantastically. It's really this one percent issue that we want to raise awareness of consumers about," Cope said.
Travel officials caution consumers to be wary of sites that promise bargain basement rates and to keep an eye out for fees or surcharges lurking in the fine print.
The AH&LA is recommending to book directly from the hotel through their website, or even by going old-school and calling. They said that is the most sure-fire way to avoid any potential pitfalls or hassles.
"At the end of the day going to the major professional website is the gold plated way to get, to be assured that you are going to get exactly what you want," Cope said.
Another tip they offer is to find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than relay what's listed on the site you book from.