Cheryl Parson: Are you traveling? When booking a hotel room, use prudent online practices

Alleluia! The country is quickly reopening its doors after the overwhelming closures of the pandemic. With a growing sense of liberation, Americans are ready for the holidays again! In fact, according to a recent Skift Resource Travel Tracker survey, over 70% of Americans plan to travel in 2021.

This means that a group of anxious people are booking rooms and staying in hotels. As we said before, whenever a news affects many people, the crooks take notice. They know that anxious people are easy targets in their never-ending goal of separating people from their money.

Scammers also know, historically, that hotels have been easy routes to their targets. If you are planning to travel and stay in a hotel room in the near future, be aware that there are several scams imposed on travelers.

Scammers are smart. They start their efforts to rip people off by focusing on websites where travelers hope to find the best hotel deals. Scammers have been known to copy legitimate and trusted websites to trick victims into voluntarily providing credit card information.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) advises, when possible, to reserve a room directly on the official website of the hotel chain. When you do this, you are working directly with the company and you are sure of the legitimacy of the reservation. An added bonus could be obtaining loyalty points if you participate in the hotel program.

Use prudent online practices. Searching the Internet using terms such as “cheapest fares” or “best deals” can often lead to deceptive travel sites that appear official but are not. Such sites often use actual logos of legitimate hotels and sometimes slip the hotel name into part of the web address to make it appear legitimate. Do a quick double check to verify the website address before providing your credit card details.

Planning as far in advance as possible to ensure bookings are available will also ensure you get the best hotel deals. It also gives you time to research different sites, compare options, and get 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 great deals that may not show up in online sources. Third-party online sources like Priceline, Kayak, Travelocity, and others are also viable options, but as we’ve seen before, make sure you’re visiting the legitimate site and not a fake one.

Whether it’s a hotel reservation or any other online purchase, always look for the padlock symbol that indicates you are dealing with a secure shopping system. As we have said in the past, the URL must start with HTTPS and not just HTTP (the extra “S” indicates that this is a secure site).

Scammers will also target you once you register. Here are some patterns to watch out for:

False food delivery: Scammers often place fake restaurant menus in rooms, hoping that 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 legitimate.

False calls from reception: In this common scam, the victim receives a call in the middle of the night, supposedly from the front desk, saying there was a problem with the credit card provided during check-in. The “front desk” caller hopes to use the sleep fog to trick a groggy victim into giving out a credit card and other personal information.

We encourage you to check with us at BBB to make sure the places you do business with have a good reputation with previous customers.

Travel safe, have fun and book wisely!

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB can be viewed on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.


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