Taking a vacation this summer? Be extra careful when booking accommodations online. Fake websites appear to offer travelers a convenient way to reserve hotel rooms, but they are just making money for scammers.
How the Scam Works:
You are planning a trip and need to book a hotel room. You see an online ad promoting hotel rooms at a cheap price, and you click it. You are directed to a website that looks legitimate. It may have a URL similar to the real hotel website or established third-party booking site, such as Hotels.com or Expedia.com. The website may also use the same logo, colors and/or design of the legitimate site.
The website might look okay, but it's a fraud. Scammers are creating fake hotel booking websites to steal money from travelers. Some scam sites make money by tacking on additional fees, but others charge you for a room that simply doesn't exist. In any case, sharing your credit card and personal information (such as name, address and phone number) on scam websites puts you at risk for identity theft.
How to Spot a Fake Website
Here's how to spot a fake website:
- Don't believe what you see: The site may have the logo or design of a legitimate hotel or booking site, but that can be easily copied from the real website.
- Look out for fake contact info: Some consumers report calling the 1-800 number posted on a scam hotel booking site to confirm its legitimacy. Scammers simply impersonated the front desk of the hotel.
- Double check the URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look very similar to those of legitimate sites. Always be sure to double check the URL before making a purchase. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (brandwebsite.net or brandwebsite.co)
- Look for a secure connection. Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with "HTTPS" and has a lock icon.
- Watch for too good to be true deals. Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere.
For More Information
To learn more, check out this alert and infographic from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).