Planning to stay in a hotel soon? Keep your personal information protected since tourist and business travelers are often considered the easiest targets. Hotels provide scammers an easy path towards their goal of trying to separate a traveler from their cash.
7 Common Hotel Scams to be Aware of
You might assume that you would see a scam coming from a mile away, but the tricksters these days have gotten increasingly clever.
As we’ll show you, something as simple as ordering a pepperoni pizza to your hotel room can come with irreversible consequences.
1. Fake Website
When making online hotel reservations, make certain the website is legitimate. Scammers are famous for creating look-alike web pages to lure consumers into providing credit card information.
Doublecheck the legitimacy of the booking website. Check for spelling errors and any other small mistakes with the website before booking.
2. Fake Food Delivery
Coming across a random delivery menu or flier in the hotel might seem like a lucky find, but it could just as easily be a scam. Make sure the menus left in the hotel room are authentic.
Dining-in can feel like a temping option, especially after a day of traveling or exploration, but you could end up ordering from a restaurant that doesn’t even exist. Scammers will distribute fake menus to rooms with phone numbers that connect the caller to them instead of the hotel or a real business. They will collect the callers credit card information over the phone then never deliver food.
Before deciding to order out, do some research. First, talk directly to your hotel’s front desk staff and ask for suggestions for dinner. They know what’s in the area and where other guests have had success.
If you plan to order off of a flier, it’s probably helpful to do a quick Google search. If the restaurant appears on Google Street View or on review sites like Yelp, chances are it actually exists!
3. Late Night Front Desk Calls
Hotel guests may receive a late night phone call from someone impersonating the front desk.
The caller asks for credit card information claiming there’s a problem with the credit card on file — they may say it was declined, they need to re-verify payment information or that they lost all of the financial information and need to run an audit by a certain time.
The scammer will offer to take your credit card information over the phone, so that you’re not inconvenienced. However, a real hotel staff member will never ask for your credit card information over the phone at odd hours of the night well after you’ve checked in and will always ask to settle up any charges at the front desk.
Make all payments face-to-face. Always notify the hotel management of any calls of this nature.
4. “Free” Wi-Fi Connections
When staying at a hotel, free internet access is often touted as a benefit of being a guest, however, this also provides scammers an “in.” Be wary of free public Wi-Fi connections, even if the network sounds legit.
Wireless internet “skimming” targets travelers with the promise of free internet access. This usually appears in the common areas of the hotel. The connection is free to access but it’s not safe.
The scammer simply sets up a hotspot named “Free Wi-Fi” in a hotel, park, or popular public area. Once you start using the connection, any data you use will be sent directly to the host/scammer’s computer — websites accessed, passwords used, card information, etc.
If you’re staying at a hotel with free Wi-Fi, be sure to use the correct network, which usually requires a password, such as your room number. Ask someone at the front desk to prevent any confusion.
Some phone carriers allow you to use your smartphone as a hotspot, so if you travel a lot, it’s worth considering this feature. It will add a few bucks to your bill, but it’s better than getting your identity stolen.
5. Checkout Scam
When checking into a hotel, the front desk always asks to give a form of payment to keep on file, such as a credit or debit card, for incidentals. However, at checkout guests can decide to pay with another method, such as cash.
No matter what payment method is used, get a receipt. This provides a record of all charges during the stay so if the payment changes from credit to cash, you can dispute any charges to the credit card on file if that should happen and have the receipt to prove it.
The best way to prevent being scammed at checkout is to use the form of payment that you put on file when checking in.
Consider using a credit card versus a debit card. If your number is compromised, using your debit card provides access to the checking account and a potentially challenging situation in correcting the situation with the bank.
6. Paid for Beachfront, But You Can’t See the Beach
The view from your hotel room might not be exactly what you had envisioned.
Nothing completes a tropical vacation like having a beachfront view from your hotel balcony. And often, you pay extra to ensure that you’ll be able to watch the sunrise over crystal blue waters.
But while some hotels do have views of the water, they aren’t actually overlooking the beach. There may be a marina, highway, or strip mall between you and the ocean. This might not ruin your vacation in paradise, but no one likes to be misled.
Visit before you visit. Google Street View is an amazing way to check out the location of your hotel. It allows guests to take a 360-degree tour of the hotel’s exterior before they even get there. It’s also important to check out websites like TripAdvisor, where many guests post photos of the view from their rooms.
7. Spending a Fortune on the Hotel’s Bottled Water
Beware the hotel minibar!
Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink. When you’re visiting a country with iffy water standards, it can be a stressful experience deciding whether or not the water is actually safe to drink.
The issue is that some hotels are taking advantage of these fears. In certain countries, the hotel staff will warn against drinking the water even if the water is safe to drink. This makes guests want to buy the overpriced bottled water in the minibar.
Even worse, sometimes the water is set out without a price attached, so guests assume it’s free. Unfortunately this realization that the bottled water is not complimentary occurs only after you get the bill at checkout.