Don't Let a Fake Website Ruin Your Vacation

Top 5 Tips to Avoid Hotel Scammers

Don't Let a Fake Website Ruin Your Vacation
August 4, 2015

Nothing will ruin a vacation faster than arriving at your destination and finding out there are extra charges that you did not expect — or worse, that your hotel reservation does not exist. That scenario happens frequently enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning to travelers about unscrupulous third parties and fake hotel-booking websites. While the original warning was aimed at business travelers, the information is valid for vacationers as well.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that there are around 2.5 million rogue bookings annually at an approximate cost of $220 million to unsuspecting Americans.

How can you protect yourself against fake websites and be sure of what you are getting with your booking?

  • Search Wisely – Generic searches like "Seattle hotels" can draw scam sites to the top, since they may have paid to get to the top of the list. The more specific your search is, the less likely you are to be scammed. If you have a few preferred hotel chains, type in the chain's URL directly from their print or TV advertisements and save it in your bookmarks for easy reference.

  • Cross-Check Information – If you have located a good deal on a hotel, cross-check the hotel and website information using a separate search window before buying. Not only do national chains have their own websites, most individual hotel locations also have their own websites. Crosscheck the phone numbers and other information for basic discrepancies.

    Do not verify by calling the number listed on the site you are trying to evaluate. Fake websites often set up their own answering service to mimic the hotel site, although they may be very careful to say "reservations desk" or use other sidesteps to avoid directly mentioning the name of the hotel.

  • Be Wary of Unusually Low Deals – Any offer that is a deep discount over the usual price for a national chain should be met with skepticism and thoroughly vetted.

  • Read the Fine Print – As painful as it may be, check the website thoroughly for disclaimers before proceeding. You may find clues telling you that you are dealing with a third-party site.

  • Do Not Follow Links – Generally, links are one of the easiest ways to be redirected to a third-party site. Be very sure of the source before following any link — and even then, it's best to crosscheck.

Hotel chains will often match low price listings on the Internet. You may be better off contacting the hotel directly by phone and asking them to match the advertised Internet rate. If you do choose to book through the Internet and are victimized by a fake booking website, be sure to file a complaint with the FTC and contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

It is possible to save significant money by booking hotels online, but just make sure you know whom you are dealing with. As the old saying goes, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

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Kamie | 08.14.15 @ 04:24
It is really sad that there has to be warnings about people trying to scam people from having their dream vacation. And just sad that there are people out there who are okay with stealing someone else's hard earned money.
Kaila tubbs | 08.14.15 @ 04:28
Thank you for this information we are trying to plan a trip to Disneyland, and while I am always careful about doing my research it is good to remind myself of stuff like this. I cant imagine how horrible it would be to work so hard to save up only to lose my money on a scam.
Ron | 08.14.15 @ 10:40
And this is why staycation is my favorite vacation. That said, I use my friends who are travel agents.
Sara | 08.14.15 @ 11:18
It is sad that people are okay with stealing others money. However, like they saying goes if it is too good to be true..... it probably is.
Angie | 08.14.15 @ 11:23
This is a great article to be shared with my friends who travel.. Most people go online to book now, so this is very relevant, particularly for the college crowd that books for their spring breaks - many of them are new to the process and can be taken in easily.
Steffanie | 08.14.15 @ 11:29
This would be why I never book anywhere that isn't a well known hotel. I'm just too leery of a 'great' deal.
Sarah | 08.14.15 @ 11:30
Most of this should be common sense. In this day, nobody should take things like this at face value. There are always people out there just preying and waiting to take your money. No, I'm not paranoid but seriously, most people see the internet as faceless and it makes it so much easier to con others this way. Be smart, be careful and you should be okay.
Crystal | 08.14.15 @ 11:59
I cannot imagine having saved up for a vacation only to be ripped off. I would definitely use a travel agent that I know and can visit in person. AAA is also a great resource.
Daniel | 08.14.15 @ 12:33
Vacations like so many other things are a target for scammers. Please remember to always do some research. If something seems to good to be true it probably is.
Elaine | 08.14.15 @ 15:46
It is just really sad that you have to be so aware of all these scams. These are some great tips!
Nancy | 08.14.15 @ 15:49
This article has valuable info. Great tips to avoid being scammed. Cross checking basic info seems obvious but I doubt I would have considered I it.
Casey | 08.14.15 @ 16:00
I always go through a travel agent for this very reason
Britt | 08.14.15 @ 16:12
It's really sad that we have to see this so much with the rise of the internet... people having to warn others about harmful websites and scams. It's really upsetting, especially knowing that many people fall for them and end up losing money and such.
Britt | 08.14.15 @ 16:13
It's really sad that so many people fall victim to scams and websites like this. I will never understand how some people can take other people's money and abuse them in such a way.
Beverly | 08.14.15 @ 16:26
You have to be careful in everything you do these days and vacation planning is no exception. I tend to use websites I know and trust. Usually if a deal is too good to be true.....well, it is. Fine print is the key to everything as that is where they get you. We've preferred using a travel agent when going outside the U.S. as that can be a lot more tricky and they (usually) know what they are doing. Always check and re-check everything. Unfortunately, you can't be too trusting these days.
Carla | 08.14.15 @ 17:14
I am always scared to give out any financial info online
irene | 08.14.15 @ 17:31
I've booked vacations online at least a dozen times. You do need to use a little common sense and a reputable site.
Erin | 08.14.15 @ 17:42
Thank you for the information. It's always good to be reminded to check and double check where you are actually traveling on the net.
Alec | 08.14.15 @ 18:03
This is actually pretty scary. I'd never heard of anything like this happening. I'll be sure to double check everything the next time I have to book a room somewhere!
Donnie | 08.14.15 @ 19:14
Stick with the big hotel booking sites. And check the creditable of the hotel. Almost happen to me and family last week on vacation
Zanna | 08.14.15 @ 23:19
Bookmarking this to refer to later. What a great resource. It's a shame that there are so many scams out there.
Meredith L | 08.15.15 @ 01:35
I am generally wary of travel sites. Whenever I've traveled I like to book the hotel directly from their website. In my experience, the savings is not as significant as these booking websites lead you to believe.
Heather | 08.15.15 @ 02:44
Always be careful when booking online. There are many travel agencies you can find online that have excellent agents. Plus, they are there for your questions sometimes 24/7. Always check to see how long the agency has been around and ask for references. They will do the hard work for you while you sit back and relax.
gracie | 08.15.15 @ 22:57
It seems like there is someone waiting to scam others around every turn these days. More than ever the old saying "if it seems too good to be true it usually is" applies. It pays to take extra care in doing research on booking things. On our last trip I had great luck surfing the sites for the deals and then calling the hotels direct and asking if they would honor that same price if I booked on the phone with them right then.
gracie | 08.15.15 @ 22:59
Sad that there is a potential scammer around every virtual corner these days reminding us of how easy it is to take advantage of others. I've had great luck in the past doing my research online and then calling the hotels direct and asking if I can book with them at the price I found online
Katie Greene | 08.16.15 @ 01:24
Amazing in this day and age how smart the thieves have gotten. It's hard to know what is real and what is a scam. It's a sad commentary on society today
Connie | 08.16.15 @ 12:59
I only use resources I am familiar with and have used previously. I consider myself to be extremely cautious.
trish | 08.16.15 @ 21:47
I tend to stick with what I know...brand name travel sites, hotels, flights, etc. I am too leery of sites I am unfamiliar with.
Leah | 08.17.15 @ 01:14
I would rather drive to avoid scam sites. I am super leary about booking online
Jo | 08.17.15 @ 02:09
As someone who is planning a trip this is a terrifying idea, that's why I stick to well known sites and make sure I'm booking through them.
Apryl | 08.17.15 @ 19:34
Wise tips!
Jane | 08.17.15 @ 21:15
I never follow links for any site. I always go to the official site by manually typing in only the site name, then navigate to the correct page within the site.
Bobbie | 08.17.15 @ 21:37
We do a lot of research before booking and be sure to look at Yelp reviews as well the be sure places are legitimate
Chelsey | 08.17.15 @ 23:28
I always read the fine print, and call to ask questions. I hate surprises especially since I plan vacations to a T! Good information to follow for sure.
STOKES | 08.17.15 @ 23:28
It's disappointing that this needs an article.
Christina | 08.18.15 @ 02:18
It's sad how somebody has to do this to hard working people that just want to get a little enjoyment in life..
Chrisitna | 08.18.15 @ 13:55
I actually had this happen... booked a hotel room online, specified late arrival check-in because I wouldn't get there until late, got there around 10:15 pm and they had canceled the reservation at 10 and had no rooms left except a suite, for about $100 more per night. I drove across town and found another hotel.
Crystal | 08.18.15 @ 20:59
I always check reviews and am really cautious when booking my vacations.
Merinda | 08.19.15 @ 04:47
Great information!
Jackie | 08.20.15 @ 01:51
I forwarded a link to this article to a nephew who is in the process of planning a trip overseas. I'd hate for him to have a bad travel experience due to not taking due diligence when booking his travel accommodations.
Jackie | 08.20.15 @ 01:54
Great information for anyone planning a trip. There are so many scam artists just waiting to separate people from their hard earned money.
Andrea | 08.21.15 @ 13:55
My boyfriend tends to do our vacation planning and we have come across some questionable "rates" that I am sure would just end in disaster if we went that route. We usually stay with what we know works and not take risks.
Sierra | 08.23.15 @ 14:49
I have gotten a phone call about a "free cruise" once. Did not take it, but I wish it would have been legit!
Jo Ann | 08.23.15 @ 16:16
These are some very helpful tips for travelers. Due diligence is very important, so follow through and check out the website before you book.
Blake | 08.24.15 @ 15:56
It's sad that this happens but it's good to be made more aware of how bad it has gotten. I don't travel much but I'll always call a reputable hotel instead of using a 3rd party site
Rychana | 08.27.15 @ 01:38
I always book my vacations on well respected travel sites and I've never had any issues.
Debbie | 08.27.15 @ 04:24
I book my stays online through sites I know only and follow up with the hotel to make sure they actually got my booking. Don't want to arrive and find out it was a mix up or worse...
Morgan | 09.03.15 @ 16:36
I find it really sad that there are websites out there like this that we have to worry about.
Gunther | 09.03.15 @ 17:53
Lots of good information here; it's really sad that all this needs to be addressed to begin with.
Kyle | 09.03.15 @ 18:55
The fact that we have to warn people about the hazards of scam websites is really sad.
Kathryn | 09.03.15 @ 20:43
What jerks, honestly. Traveling should be so much cheaper than it is.
Anna | 09.03.15 @ 22:30
It's scary to see all the scams. I let my daughter book my vacations because she gets me good deals from reputable sites.
Ambar | 09.04.15 @ 00:16
"If it's too good to be true then it probably isn't."
steven | 09.04.15 @ 01:26
Always check to make sure the sites are legit. However, it is sad that this is happening.
George | 09.04.15 @ 01:28
I always call the hotel to make my reservations. I don't put personal information on the internet if I can avoid it.
Tina | 09.04.15 @ 01:43
It's sad that we have to think about such things, but this is an incredibly helpful article. I especially like the simple tip to compare to the hotel's own website - phone number, pictures, etc.
Rowan | 09.04.15 @ 04:36
This will be great to share with my friends who travel a lot.
Jill | 09.04.15 @ 04:43
I am always extra cautious about booking things like this online.
Kate | 09.04.15 @ 10:46
It never pays to be too careful when booking your family vacations. The last thing you need is to travel somewhere and have your vacation ruined because of false information. Guard yourself and your money wisely
Owen | 09.04.15 @ 16:07
There is always a scam! Beware and read this article!
Selena | 09.05.15 @ 13:26
This could be very helpful for first time vacation planners.
Amanda | 09.05.15 @ 17:31
Wow, luckily I have never had a problem but I also don't go away very often.
Clarissa | 09.06.15 @ 22:04
This is a great article! Thanks for the advice.
Courtney | 09.10.15 @ 00:47
I have never had a problem with vacation websites, but after this, I will be more careful!
amanda | 09.10.15 @ 18:17
Very useful information, thank you. So many people run into problems when vacationing. but you must remember no matter how the vacation starts make the best of it. even when all looks lost have fun make memories.
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