While booking plane tickets and hotel rooms can be pretty straightforward, it’s important to know exactly who you’re dealing with. At first glance, some websites may seem like the real deal, but they’re not. Peter Greenberg explains how to recognize when a site is running a scam—and gives his advice on how you can avoid them. Online Hotel Booking Scams
Every day, American consumers book 480 hotel rooms per minute online. A majority of those online bookings are done through reputable OTAs—Online Travel Agencies—such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and Kayak.
But a growing number of bookings are made on confusing third party websites that sound legitimate, but aren’t. There are about 2.5 million questionable bookings, representing more than $220 million in revenue.
It all comes down to websites that often pop up as paid advertising in search results and appear—some say in a deceptive way—similar to a hotel’s actual booking website. Many even prominently display hotel logos while minimizing the appearance of their own logos.
Essentially, these are third party websites trying to pass themselves off as actual hotels. So a growing number of consumers think they are booking a room directly at a Hilton hotel—offering great reduced rates—and it turns out they’re totally out of luck.
The images on the website may look like a brand such as a Hilton created them—as well as the quoted rate. But if you study the top of the ad, the number listed is not for the hotel, but rather for the third party website. So you may think you’re calling the hotel, but in reality, you’re not.
Then you arrive at the hotel to discover your reservation never actually existed, or the room you asked for doesn’t exist…even though you’ve already paid for the room.
Or, you may have a valid room reservation, but then discover that the hotel never got your request for two double beds, or a no smoking room or a handicapped accessible room. Worse, the rate you were quoted doesn’t exist, but your credit card was charged.
Or you find out you then can’t cancel the reservation, and these sites rarely have customer service centers.
Some go by the name of “reservation-desk.com/hilton,” or “Hilton.reservationcounter.com.” At first glance it seems like these websites belong to Hilton, but they don’t.
Translation: the AHLA (American Hotel and Lodging Association) claims that these third party websites are attempting to pass themselves off as the actual hotel. Earlier this week, five members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking them to investigate the ongoing problem. READ FULL CONTENT (PDF)