Traveling is as popular as ever these days, and more and more people are shunning the traditional travel agent and booking their vacations and business trips online.
That’s definitely a good idea because with a little shopping around, airline, hotel and rental car bargains can be found at much lower rates than most travel agents can provide.
The problem comes in, of course, when crooks get into the act and try to trick travelers into paying for nonexistent or inadequate arrangements. This is especially risky when booking hotel rooms.
The hotel room fraudsters typically have websites that make them look like legitimate travel industry businesses. They may send out e-mails to get your attention. Or they go phishing on social media by offering “hot tips.”
Room doesn’t exist
What often happens is the unwary victim arrives at the destination hotel and finds that there is no record of the purchase allegedly made over the Internet. Either that or there is a room and hardly resembles what you thought you were getting.
This can be especially painful if special needs were involved such as accommodations for the handicapped.
Worst of all, after the purchase has been paid for the fraudsters are in possession of your credit and identity information.
How can you protect yourself? First off, if the price offered is simply too good to be true, forget about it or proceed only with extreme caution.
Look out for the e-mail that pitches cut-rate hotel rooms. All you have to do is clink on a link. Don’t do it.
Take an extra minute
Or you might initiate a search for hotel rooms in a certain city. A number of possibilities turn up. Make sure the one you click on is legit. Often the bogus sites have something amiss. A word may be spelled wrong. Or the URL is more wordy than necessary. Take an extra minute and look things over carefully.
The phony websites are especially hard to spot on smart phones or tablets where the screen and type size are small.
The fraud is often in the details. Look things over for misspellings, poor grammar or English usage that is unusual or not typically American.
It can be difficult to resist a bargain. But for safety reasons alone it could be beneficial to deal with established businesses that you have heard of.
Worst case scenario: Use an old-fashioned travel agent. They can sometimes sweeten a deal with an upgrade or a free breakfast.