You are planning your trip, so you go to Expedia or Booking and get a hotel reservation only to get to the hotel and realize that there is no room for you. In a better-case scenario, you realize that you got a far worse room than what you saw while booking or you were charged more than what people are actually paying at the hotel. All these are simple scams that can happen when you book a rental car or a hotel room online. The old threats of booking through a fake website and losing your money and credit card information to scammers still linger as well. So, how do you stay safe when making your travel reservations online? Here are the safety tips to avoid the 10 most common scams…
Fake booking websites
These are a huge problem and people lose millions of dollars to them every year. The biggest problem is that losing your money on a fake hotel, flight or car rental booking website also means that you have given your payment and personal information to scammers so they can keep hitting you. You, therefore, need to ensure that the website you are clicking on has a padlock sign on the top left side of the URL. The URL should also start with HTTPS and not just HTTP. The s stands for security. You should also avoid clicking on ads on social media that promote unusually lucrative sounding deals. It is wise to only give your credit card information after verifying the website, receiving confirmation of your reservation via text or email and being ready to pay.
Identity theft scams
This happens even after you have arrived in your hotel room. Some of the largest travel booking companies in the world have suffered data breaches over the years so scammers may already have your information. You should therefore use a credit card for booking because credit card companies have anti-fraud measures in place. You should also avoid giving your payment information to unknown callers even if they claim to be hotel or rental car company staff. If anything wasn’t recorded properly, better have them sorted with your credit card company or sort it with the cashier when you arrive. You should also invest in a secure online payment shield that secures your information before you pay for anything online.
Phone calls from scammers
A TikTok video in 2021 brought light to these types of scams that may happen when you have already checked into a hotel. Someone calls you saying they are at the reception and need some additional information from you and you start giving them all the information they need to steal from you. If anyone calls claiming they are from a third-party booking company, hotel or car rental company, you should not give away your information until you verify the caller.
This happens more times than you can imagine, especially with car rentals. You pay for your room or car only to find your credit card charged a second-time months later. Sometimes, they may crop up some charge they never told you or if you never check your statement, you will never know. You should therefore pay using any other means or make sure you block any payments with your credit card company once you have paid for your reservations. If possible, you should pay using cash apps such as Venmo or Zelle which cannot be charged without your knowledge.
Being pressured into paying immediately
When you see ads like ‘only one room left’ or ‘this offer ends after 24 hours, you should be very careful because third-party booking sites do not have access to hotel inventory. Chances are, they are about to overcharge you for a room which may be cheaper. Just go to the actual hotel’s website and check the room prices. If you have a loyalty program with a third-party website, then you should call the hotel personally to confirm. Otherwise, no one will die because you delayed paying for a hotel room or rental car by a few hours.
Getting hit by hidden charges
Third-party websites earn a commission when they refer you to a hotel and when that is not enough for them, they will charge you a booking/convenience/booking fees. Sometimes, these charges won’t be told to you until you are about to check out your room, car or flight. If you get charges that you didn’t see in the selection and reservation stage, then chances are someone is causing you to pay for something you won’t get so the smart idea is to reach out directly to the hotel and get a breakdown of all the charges.
Paying way over the actual price
This happens a lot and many third-party booking companies have been sanctioned by the US and Australian governments for it. The third party tells you that you have a discount when you book with them only to learn that you were overcharged when you finally get to your hotel room. One thing you should know is that these websites prioritize hotels that pay them more money, a cost that they transfer to you. To avoid this, you should do your research and compare the price on the third-party website and the price on the hotel’s website.
Failing to find your reservation
When you book a room and realize that you never had one after arriving at your destination, then chances are that you fell victim to a fake booking website scam. That is why the American Hotel and Lodging association recommends booking directly with the hotel and verifying each reservation directly either via official email or a call. If you don’t find any special requests you made while reserving the room, then you should report the website to the relevant consumer protection authorities and give them a damning review.
Unsolicited emails from “the hotel”
You probably haven’t checked a hotel’s website for some time only to receive an email telling you they have an offer and you should cash in on it. Scammers that have breached hotel data could use such emails to steal from you. You should hover over the link and ensure it actually leads to the official website before clicking on it.
Unrealistic cancellation/ trip change penalties
Most hotels will charge you a percentage of your total payment if you seek cancellation or have a trip change. You have to ensure that the terms and conditions you agree to have clear cancellation and trip change rules and know how much you will be charged. If you have an option, you should avoid prepaying for any rooms because that way, no one will charge you for modifying your reservation.