UNITED STATE — With an online hotel-booking scam wreaking havoc on unaware travelers, concerned U.S. senator Chuck Grassley has reached out to the Federal Trade Commission requesting the agency look into the matter, according to Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times.
The scams aim to access a user’s personal information. Therefore, if a traveler books a hotel room on one of these fake third-party booking sites, their information, including payment details can be saved and ultimately accessed.
“It’s easy for someone to ‘skin’ another company’s website to create a phishing website,” said Atmosphere Research founder and travel analyst Henry Harteveldt via the Times.
Harteveldt went on to explain that the scammers are “basically taking the look and feel and copying, in some cases with an alarming amount of accuracy,” but “no real content, no real functionality.”
“All [the site is] doing is capturing your personal information,” he concluded.
As with most online scams, there are several steps that travelers can take in order to protect themselves.
Start by carefully reading the website’s URL, as often times there will be misspellings or words and punctuation that don’t belong. It’s also wise to avoid making reservations through booking sites that you aren’t familiar with, as you’ll be less likely to know whether something is off or the site is the real deal.
Plus, you can always call the hotel directly to confirm a deal if you’re suspicious of it.
A similar scam involving free tickets to Walt Disney World has been circulating online recently as well. That scam has been cropping up on social media websites like Facebook, where users are also putting their friends’ personal information at risk by sharing the phony posts.
When analyzing hotel deals on social media, users should always double check to make sure the post is legitimate and coming from the real source. On sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, keep your eyes open for the verified blue check that confirms a real company is behind the offer.