In a digital age where we can book just about anything online, this hotel scam is definitely one to beware of when you travel. Online hotel booking scams are on the rise, with 55 million of these bookings a year translating to $3.9 billion in "bad" bookings, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
The AHLA is warning travelers today to beware of booking hotel rooms on fraudulent websites that are not associated with any hotel but portray themselves as real hotel websites. Back in 2015, just six percent of American travelers reported that they booked on one of these fake hotel websites, only to find out it wasn't real later. But just two years later, that number has nearly quadrupled to 22 percent of U.S. travelers having that horrible experience.
As The Observer points out, these online hotel booking scams not only can cost consumers extra money, they can also put travelers at risk of showing up at a hotel only to realize they have no reservation and no available rooms. In other words — all packed up and no place to stay. Yikes!
But the good news is, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from falling victim to one of these online hotel booking scams, straight from the AHLA's "Search Smarter" guide:
Look before you book. Some of these booking sites will go so far as to use the hotel’s brand name in the URL. Take an extra minute to make sure you’re on the real hotel’s booking site. Always check the URL address. Although the hotel name may be part of the URL, double check the website address to ensure it’s not a third-party vendor stealing a hotel’s identity. Make sure you know who you’re giving your information to.
Take advantage of loyalty programs. Sign-up for loyalty programs at your favorite hotels. They’re free and offer amazing benefits… And they’re only getting better, as hotels continue to introduce new perks to their programs. Always book directly with the hotel to make sure you’re getting your points.
Be sure you call the hotel directly and ask the right questions when booking to ensure you protect your information, your reservation, your points and your credit card information.
What is the cancellation/trip change policy?
Is it a secure payment site? The URL should have a small lock and should start with https:// as opposed to just http://.
Is the site, in any way, affiliated with the hotel?
Booking directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent can help ensure you get what you want and need from your reservation and often provides the better value.