Beware: That hotel room you just booked might be phony

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HotelAttention business travelers and vacationers: That website you used to book your hotel room might just be phony, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The consumer protection agency issued two warnings recently  (see here and here) that warn of websites that look like they’re affiliated with a hotel, but aren’t.

Sometimes the sites are completely bogus, the FTC warnings said. You show up at the hotel and discover there’s no reservation in your name. Other times, the reservation is real, but what you get is not what you thought you paid for. The site may belong to a legitimate third-party that does not honor the hotel’s cancellation policies, or blocks you from counting your booking towards a rewards program. Sometimes, these sites don’t forward your request for a room with disability access, or charge hidden fees.

How do you avoid being fleeced? Scrutinize the website you use to book your reservation. The FTC advises that when you Google your hotel, don’t assume that the first link that pops up is the property’s real website. And don’t assume that a website that features a hotel’s logo or name is the right one. Also, don’t count on verifying the authenticity of the site by calling numbers on the page. They might go straight to a call center that’s in on the scam.

Here’s what the FTC recommends:

  • If it’s important to you to book directly through the hotel chain, consider using the toll-free number or URL on your rewards card or featured in the company’s TV or print ads.
  • Whether you choose to book through a chain or through a third-party site, read the details carefully with an eye out for any fees or surcharges that may lurk in the fine print or behind vaguely labeled hyperlinks.
  • If you received an email confirmation, travel with a printed copy or have it easily accessible on your smartphone.
  • Before you hit the road, use a number you know to be genuine to call the hotel directly. Double-check that your reservation is in the system.
  • Share these tips with your company travel office or anyone else who makes reservations on behalf of your business.





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