Don't Get Scammed Over the Holidays

Don't Get Scammed Over the Holidays © Flickr PHOTO: Heed hotel scam warnings for a less-harried holiday. (photo via Flickr/Cory Doctorow)

Millions are planning to take a vacation this holiday season, and that means hotel bookings are being made in high volumes.

But are they all legit?

With reports that 55 million bookings were affected by hotel-related scams, costing consumers nearly $4 billion, hotel booking scams are more common than travelers may realize.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has provided several tips on what travelers should watch for and how they can prevent getting scammed themselves.

Make sure you have a confirmation email. AHLA says scammers don’t like to leave a paper trail.

"After taking a customer’s money, it is unlikely the operator of a scam will send a confirmation email because they don’t want customers to have verification that they sold something that doesn’t exist," noted the organization.

Travelers should also watch out for advance charges.

Have you been charged in full? The AHLA says that this is a red flag.

“When you book directly, the majority of hotels do not charge you in advance–they charge you upon check-in or check out. If anything, they will put a hold on your account for a portion of the reservation cost,” the organization notes.

Checking your credit card statement to make sure that the records match is also a good idea.

“If the charge appears to be coming from another entity, there is definitely reason to be alarmed. Your next step should be to call the hotel to verify they actually have a reservation for you,” says the organization.

If you are concerned, Google the hotel name and address from the confirmation notice to find out if the property is legit.

“There have been cases when scammers have provided 'reservations' to hotels that don’t exist or are not, in fact, a hotel–many times this applies to condo buildings in resort areas,” says the AHLA. "The best way to ensure your reservation exists and is what you think you have booked is to call the hotel directly."

No matter how the reservation was made, the property should be able to verify that the reservation exists.

One of the best ways to ensure you’re hotel bookings are on the up and up is to enlist the help of a reputable travel agent or at least book directly with the hotel itself.

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