Avoid being a victim of a growing fraud that targets hotel guests
17 August 2016 by George Hazell
We’ve been made aware of a credit card scam in which fraudsters target hotel guests. Our Head of Information Security gives an overview of the scam and tells you how to avoid it...
As a former student of psychology (a long time ago!), it fascinates me why we trust people in some circumstances, and not in others. In the not so distant past, we wouldn’t have thought twice about handing over a credit card to a waiter in a restaurant, only to have him disappear with it for five minutes. These days, we expect to be given a hand held card payment machine so that we can make the transaction ourselves, at our table. The card should never leave our sight and we worry (don’t we?) if it does.
Surely it’s not just paranoid security people like me who hide their PIN from view when we type it? Ultimately, it’s all about trust!
A scam you need to know about
Typically, when you arrive at your hotel and check in, you provide a credit or debit card to guarantee the payment of any incidental costs not included in your room rate. This is completely normal and you shouldn’t ordinarily worry about this.
But, fraudsters are always looking for clever ways to dupe us into giving them personal and payment information and one of their latest tricks is explained in the scenario below:
You check-in to your hotel and provide card details for any extra charges during your stay. When you’re in your room you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the hotel reception team. The individual tells you that there was a problem with your card details and asks you confirm your card number and three-digit security code from the reverse side of the card. As a helpful traveller, you oblige the request. But, you’ve just given your card details to a total stranger who called the hotel and used various trickery to get their call put through to any guest room.
How can travellers avoid becoming a victim?
If this happens to you, tell the caller you’ll pop down to reception to sort out the problem face-to-face. Properties need and want to know if their hotel and guests are the being targeted by fraudsters so inform the reception team what has happened. Even if the request turns into a demand for your card details - some fraudsters can be very persuasive – don’t give in.
You may be overseas where there’s a language barrier, or you assume its local culture to share details over the telephone. Again, don’t give in.
Never give your card details over the phone unless you initiated the call and you are paying for goods or services which you have already received, or which you are confident and trust you will receive.
Generally, I’d also encourage everyone to be a little more suspicious and, if things don’t feel right, to query them. This applies particularly to this type of scam. Ask yourself: “Is this usual? Is the request reasonable? Have I ever had this sort of request before?"
What should I do if I think I have been scammed?
If you think you may have been scammed, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. These providers will have a 24-hour hotline for cases of suspected fraud.
Want to find out more?
Download our infographic on tips to keep your data safe
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