Hotel booking frauds: From fake websites to unrealistic discounts

Hotel booking frauds: From fake websites to unrealistic discounts

12 January, 2024

The convenience of online hotel booking has become integral to travel. Most hotels and guest houses now tend to have an online presence, whether through their own websites or third-party pages. However, this online convenience has also given rise to hotel booking frauds. This tends to create mistrust among travellers.

To travel safely, it is important to know how hotel booking frauds take place. Let us look at the nature of these frauds, the methods used by fraudsters, the potential harm it can cause you and most importantly, how you can protect yourself from falling victim to such schemes.

What are hotel booking frauds?

Hotel reservation frauds involve deceptive practices where fraudsters employ multiple tactics to dupe you of your hard-earned money. They can do this by either creating fraudulent platforms or by exploiting legitimate ones to deceive you into making reservations that do not exist or are misrepresented. These frauds can range from fake websites to misleading advertisements with attractive offers and discounts.

Types of frauds in the hotel industry

1) Fake websites

Fraudsters often create fake hotel booking websites to deceive innocent people. These websites mimic legitimate platforms and are convincing, complete with images, descriptions and fake customer reviews. You may unwittingly provide personal and payment details on these fraudulent sites, compromising your personal and banking information.

2) False advertisements

Today, social media is one of the best mediums of advertisement; that’s where the audience is. Fraudulent advertisements on these platforms often lure people with incredibly low prices or attractive promotions. Clicking on these ads may redirect you to fake booking sites.

3) Unrealistic discounts

Fraudsters exploit your desire for discounts by offering you seemingly irresistible offers and deals. If not careful, you may fall for these discounts and end up making payments for non-existent reservations or substandard accommodations.

4) Phishing e-mails, messages and calls

You may receive phishing e-mails, messages or calls posing as hotel representatives. These messages often request your personal or financial information to confirm bookings or provide exclusive offers. Once you provide this information, you can end up becoming a victim of these frauds.

How does hotel booking fraud harm you?

Staying aware of hotel frauds is important as they can harm you in multiple ways, including but not limited to the following:

1) Financial loss

Victims of hotel booking frauds often suffer significant financial losses. They end up making payments for non-existent services or through fake websites. These payments are usually irreversible and the contact details provided on the website are usually bogus. If your card details are compromised, then the losses can be recurrent.

2) Identity theft

Providing personal and financial information on fraudulent sites can lead to identity theft. You may end up compromising your crucial personal information like PAN / Aadhaar, which can potentially lead to further financial fraud.

3) Travel disruptions

Falling victim to a fake hotel booking can result in unexpected travel disruptions. You may end up stranded at an unknown place with no option but to arrange for sudden accommodation at higher costs.

4) Compromised personal safety

Booking accommodations through fraudulent sites may expose you to unsafe or unauthorised locations, putting your personal safety at risk.

How to stay safe from hotel reservation frauds?

You can avoid falling victim to hotel fraud by being aware and following these simple tips provided by HDFC Bank Vigil Aunty:

  1. Use reputable booking platforms: Always stick to well-known and reputable hotel booking websites. You can check reviews and ratings of different hotels on trusted platforms to ensure the legitimacy of the booking service.

  2. Verify the website's authenticity: If you are directly visiting the hotel’s website, then you should scrutinise the website's URL for any irregularities or misspellings. Further, you should ensure that the website uses secure and encrypted connections (https://).

  3. Be sceptical of unrealistic discounts: If a hotel deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. You should be cautious of heavily discounted rates, especially when they are significantly lower than the prices offered by other reputable booking platforms. This is a potential red flag.

  4. Double-check contact information: Before providing personal or financial information, you should independently verify the hotel's contact information. You should avoid clicking on links or responding to emails and calls that seem suspicious.

  5. Use two-factor authentication: Your bank and payment methods should always have two-factor authentication enabled. This adds an extra layer of security to your account and will prevent unauthorised payments.

  6. Stay informed: Being aware is the master key to protecting yourself from all kinds of fraud. You should keep yourself informed about common hotel reservation fraud tactics. Stay updated on the latest frauds and be wary of new methods that fraudsters use to deceive innocent people.

Vigil Aunty by HDFC Bank is on a mission to educate and make people aware of modern-day fraudulent activities. She provides support to those who have become victims of these types of frauds. In the evolving landscape of online travel, awareness and discernment are powerful tools for ensuring safe and enjoyable journeys. Reach out to Vigil Aunty for any assistance.

Join Vigil Army, where Vigil Aunty will decode various frauds and give people a heads-up on the dos and don’ts of combating frauds online. To join the Vigil Army, send ‘Hi’ to her via WhatsApp number 7290030000.

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