Expert insights

Avoid being a victim of a fraud that targets hotel guests

12 February 2018

Fraudsters will try anything, so awareness is vital when travelling for business. Here's one scam and how to avoid it...

In the not so distant past, travellers wouldn’t have thought twice about handing over a credit card to a waiter in a restaurant, only to have them disappear with it for five minutes. These days, you expect to be given a handheld card payment machine so that you can make the transaction yourself, at the table. The card should never leave your sight and you worry (don’t you?) if it does.

Things have changed and with fraudsters becoming increasingly cunning, people need to be more prepared.

A scam you need to know about

Typically, when travellers arrive at a hotel to check in, they provide a credit or debit card to guarantee the payment of any incidental costs not included in the room rate. This is completely normal and travellers shouldn’t ordinarily worry about this.

But, fraudsters are always looking for clever ways to dupe people 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 to 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 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 it's 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 advise people to query something if it doesn’t feel right. This applies particularly to this type of scam. Ask yourself: “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.

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