November 11, 2015

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Scam Alert: Hotel Billing Scams

As Thanksgiving approaches, you may already have your airline reservations, boarding passes, and packed suitcases ready for your trip to visit family over the holidays.

Before you head out of town, there’s a hotel scam that you should be aware of.

Because people are in unfamiliar situations when traveling, they can be targets for fraud and theft. Thieves count on the fact that travelers often don’t have a chance to check their financial accounts until they get home, especially when there’s a holiday involved.

In one of the most prevalent travel-related schemes, thieves seek out hotel guests and persuade them to reveal names, home addresses, credit card numbers, and other personal information that can be used for identity theft.

How It Works

These hotel scams start with a phone call — sometimes in the middle of the night, when you’re sure to be groggy — in which the caller purports to be from the front desk or management office.

Typically, the caller says that the hotel’s computer system is down or that your data has been lost due to a technical glitch. Even though it might be after midnight, the caller claims that your credit card information and address are needed immediately. Sometimes they even give a reason, such as the necessity to complete the day’s audit before 3 a.m.

In some cases, the caller insists that the information is needed for faster checkout or that providing your credit card data by phone will result in reduced room charges.

Preventing Theft

In many cases, preventing these hotel scams is simple: Just don’t give out sensitive information, except in person. If the caller becomes angry, just remember that putting you on the defensive is a common tactic when it comes to scams like these.

Also, if the caller insists that the requested information can only be given over the phone, then it’s most likely a scam. Hang up and head to the front desk as soon as you can to report the incident to the manager.

If you still think that the call may be legitimate, let the person know you’ll stop at the front desk soon. Any legitimate hotel will accept this answer, since it means you’ll be resolving the issue shortly.

Much like other travel safety tactics, avoiding hotel scams and being aware of common scams like this one will allow you to focus on the holidays without the hassles — and without the risk of identity theft.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Falk Lademann.

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