Beware: Fake Hotel Booking Sites
Imagine flying across the country for the vacation you’ve been waiting for just to arrive at the hotel and find out you don’t have a room.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that 2.5 million hotel reservations are booked through misleading third-party sites each year, costing consumers an estimated $220 million.
These sites use logos and pictures from the official hotel website without permission to pose as a legitimate site. They sometimes even include the hotel name in the URL and answer the phone pretending to be the hotel itself. They can even pay to be in the top search results. With tactics and disguises like this, it can be easy to fall victim to these scams.
If they get you, you could face any of these problems:
- You don’t have a room at the actual hotel
- You’re charged undisclosed fees
- You don’t get the room that you requested (not the right size or number of beds, not handicap accessible, etc.)
- You can’t cancel or modify your hotel reservation
- You don’t earn any reward points
- Your credit card information is compromised
How to spot a fake hotel site
No one wants to deal with this nightmare, but thankfully, the Better Business Bureau shares several ways to spot these fake sites.
Often times, these sites will advertise the “lowest prices on the Internet.” Therefore, it’s important to beware of prices that are significantly lower than others or too good to be true.
Make sure you pay attention to the URL. Look to see if it’s a secure payment site by confirming it begins with https:// (not http://) and has a small lock icon before the URL. Also, check for extra words in the address. An official site is usually just the name, like www.hilton.com.
Once at the website, check to see if it has other company logos.
Lastly, it can be a red flag if the website includes a button with a number to call.
How to be on the safe side
When making your reservation by phone, ask about the company’s cancellation policy (most third parties don’t have a cancellation policy to protect you) and if the company you are talking to is affiliated with the hotel.
However, the safest way to avoid any scammers is to book directly with the hotel. The FTC says, “It’s also a good idea to find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than rely on what’s listed on the site.” If you are still unsure, ask specifics like how many rooms the hotel has, how far it is from the airport and what stores and restaurants are nearby.
It is always beneficial to call the hotel beforehand to confirm your reservation, too.
If it does happen to you
If you find yourself in a scam situation, start fixing it by calling your credit card company to dispute the charge. It is also important to file a complaint with the FTC.