Vacation travelers are always on the hunt for the best deal – particularly when it comes to hotels. For business travelers, the concept of open booking has been very popular in the last few years as travelers look to make choices outside of their company’s traditional managed travel program. With the prevalence of mobile online booking, a new crop of fraudulent hotel sites have appeared that prey on travelers looking to go it alone with their bookings. It isn’t an isolated problem either. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) estimates that the number of US travelers falling victim to booking scams each year is as high as 2.5 million.
Fraudulent sites may be built to resemble legitimate booking sites, going as far as using the logos and color schemes of hotels and reputable online sites. They will collect deposits from bookers or a “commission” without ever booking the reservation.
It has become harder and harder to notice the fakes as more people book via their mobile devices. Maryam Cope, Vice President for Government Affairs for the AH&LA told the LA Times that travelers may not even realize they’ve been scammed until it’s too late. “If you book the room online you may not find out there is a problem until you show up at the front desk,” said Cope.
The AH&LA has worked with members of Congress to reach out to the US Attorney General’s office, educating them on the issue and asking them to spread the word about these scams. Until these fraudsters are cracked down upon, here are some things you can do to protect your money and enjoy your upcoming trip:
- If you’re a business traveler and your company has a managed travel program, booking through company-approved channels is always the best option.
- Don’t click links from emails or other websites that lead you to a hotel booking site. Access sites directly via their URL or their official mobile app.
- If you aren’t familiar with the hotel booking site, do some research. A few searches of Google and social media sites can save you from a ruined trip.
- Use your instinct. If it doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t. Call your travel management company or reach out to the hotel directly to be sure.