BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Chris Core was scammed by a bogus hotel reservation website, and vows he won’t be burned again, ” I showed up at a place in the Dominican Republic, and it was gone.”
Core is emblematic of a disturbing trend: travelers spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars for their dream vacation, showing up at a hotel, weary and tired, and finding out they have been ripped off.
The Hotel and Lodging Association says Core is one of about 2.5 million Americans who get ripped off each year by misleading travel websites, and investigators in the hotel industry now believe hackers are cloning legitimate hotel reservation sites.
The Better Business Bureau is cautioning consumers to be extra careful when booking hotel rooms using third party websites.
“We are finding that so many online opportunities sound very similar to well known brands that we are familiar with,” said Peggy Penders Tronolone of the Upstate New York BBB, “but yet they are not actually the company you want to book through.”
Tronolone says for security, it might be better to book directly through a hotel’s website, but if you are looking to save money through a travel website, go with one you can trust.
“That you can find a track record, they have experience in this particular industry, they are not new in this game. So that they can provide you with the proper refunds and exchanges that you might expect.”
The Federal Trade Commission is looking into complaints against those bogus hotel booking sites, and has put out a nationwide warning to travelers.
The hotel industry claims these online hotel reservation scams cost Americans more than $200 million a year.
Tronolone advises travelers to always use a credit card when doing business online, including booking your hotel room, “It is very important that you know from your financial institution if your credit card is going to give you the same protection as your debit card.”
“The credit card is going to give you opportunity to perhaps cancel something that you found out was not legit.”
Hotel operators say, after your reservations are made–even if it is through a third party–you should be able to check with the hotel to make sure your room is booked. If not, you need to find out why before you take your trip.