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BBB Scam Alert: Beware of hotel scams

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (BBB) -- Planning to stay in a hotel soon? Be aware, scammers are always trying to get ahold of your credit card information.

Tourists and business travelers are often considered the easiest targets. Hotels provide scammers an easy path towards their goal of trying to separate a traveler from their cash.

Here are 5 very common hotel scams to be aware of:

Fake Website

When making online hotel reservations, know the website you’re using. Scammers are famous for creating look-alike web pages to lure consumers into providing credit card information.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association is a BBB National Partner. They provided us with some tips to follow before booking a hotel room.

Fake Food Delivery

Make sure the menus left in your hotel room are authentic. Dining-in can feel like a tempting option, especially after a day of traveling or exploration, but you could end up ordering from a restaurant that doesn’t even exist.

Scammers will distribute fake menus to rooms with phone numbers that connect the caller to them instead of the hotel or a real business. They will collect the caller's credit card information over the phone then never deliver food.

Before you decide to order somewhere, do some research and make sure the business exists. If you’re still questioning your options, ask 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 and they need to re-verify payment information or that they lost all 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. They will always ask you to settle up any charges at the front desk. Always notify the hotel of any calls of this nature.

“Free” Wi-Fi Connections

When staying at a hotel, nobody enjoys having to pay for their Internet access. This gives scammers an “in”; “Free Wifi” hotspot popups are very tempting for travelers who are looking for access to the outside world.

Wireless Internet “skimming” is a new and growing hotel scam that targets travelers with the promise of free Internet access. This usually appears in the common areas of the hotel. Yes, the connection will be 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.

Checkout Scam

When checking into your hotel room-you're always asked to give a form of payment to keep on files, such as a credit or debit card, for incidentals. However, at checkout, you can decide to pay for your stay with another method, such as cash.

No matter what payment method you use, make sure you get a receipt and keep it.

The problem in checking outcomes if there’s a dishonest individual working behind the desk. Say you decided to pay with cash. There’s a chance the individual could pocket the cash and still charge your room to the card on file. When you later notice this you’ll need the receipt to prove that you paid.

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 your number is compromised, using your debit card lays you wide open to having your entire checking account emptied and fighting with the bank.

Dave Davis

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