Summer. Time for barbecues, road trips and… hotel scams? If you’re heading out on the road this summer and will be staying at a hotel or motel along the way, the FTC recently published a list of scams and “hazards”, including some that are identity theft related, that you need to obviously avoid. Some are simply extra fees that hotels have started adding, which you obviously will want to avoid as well. Check them out below and make your summer travels a little safer and less expensive. Enjoy.
1) The “problem with your credit card” scam. The first scam comes right after you check into your hotel room. The phone rings and a person identifying themselves as someone “from the front desk” says there’s a problem with your credit card and asks for the account number. It’s a scam that’s becoming more popular because it’s quite easy to pull off and, once you give that number and its accompanying data, the scammers have access to your card and can quickly drain it. If you get a call like this at your hotel, hang up and call the front desk yourself to see if they were the ones actually calling. Even simpler, walk down there yourself and ask.
2) The “fake pizza flyer” scam. With this scam, you find a pizza or other restaurant flyer slipped under your hotel door with pictures of their delicious food and their phone number. Once you call, they take your order and your credit card information. Although it’s not extremely popular yet, simply due to all of those security cameras at most hotels, it is being seen more often.
3) The rogue Wi-Fi hotspot. This can happen in your hotel or in a coffee shop or other location along the way. Using easily set up technology, criminals offer a free Wi-Fi hotspot and collect your credit card and other information once you log on. Your best bet is to always check with the hotel or a restaurant employee to make sure that the Wi-Fi hotspot you’re using is legitimate. Even better is to use your own smart phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which is easily set up with a phone call to your service provider.
4)The “free” Wi-Fi trick. While this isn’t a scam set up by criminals, you certainly will feel like you’ve been ripped off. Many hotels today are offering “free” Wi-Fi in their lobby but, once you check in, you’re forced to pay a daily fee for your Wi-Fi in your hotel room. Some hotels charge between $10 and $15 per day so, before you start using that Wi-Fi, make sure it’s actually free.
5) Extra “resort” fees. Although budget websites like Expedia or Priceline help hotels fill their rooms, most hotels are not particularly fond of them. In order to make up the money lost from giving away their rooms so cheaply, many have taken to including “resort fees” like charging you for housekeeping, keeping things in a hotel safe and so forth. Some will even charge you these fees if you don’t use them, so if you see them on your bill make sure to ask for them to be removed.
6) The bouncing cancellation fee. It used to be that if you canceled a hotel reservation 24 hours ahead of time or more, you would get a full refund. These days that’s not always the case so, before you book a hotel or motel reservation, make sure you check to see what their cancellation policy is and, if you have to cancel, abide by it to avoid these extra fees.
Now that you know some of the tricks that criminals, and unfortunately hotels, are using to grab your hard-earned money, you can go on vacation this summer with a little bit less anxiety. Have fun!