If you’re thinking of booking a last-minute getaway to enjoy the last days of summer, beware: Travelers searching for hotel rooms online are being tricked into paying more than they should, and in some cases, handing over their credit card information, and getting nothing at all in return.
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, about 480 hotel bookings are made online every minute in North America.
But not all online booking websites are what they seem.
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This summer, thousands of travelers who thought they’d reserved directly with hotels were actually directed to third-party websites.
A simple Google search for a hotel can turn up ads for sites that appear to link directly to the property’s site, complete with logo and photos. But according to the Better Business Bureau, when many travelers booked and checked in, they often didn’t get the room or amenities they’d requested, and had to pay unexpected booking fees on top of the daily rate.
"(These ads) look authentic, so be careful,” BBB President Steve McFarland told the NBC4 I-Team. “Get out, stop, don’t click on it, and move on.”
Another sneaky trick: Pop-up boxes that appear when you’re on a legitimate hotel website, pretending to represent the property, and requesting your credit card information in order to book a room.
If this happens to you, chances are you’re being “phished,” and you should close the pop-up box immediately.
Some tips to protect you when you book your next hotel room online:
- Beware of any pop-ups, including ones that appear to be generated by a hotel representative offering to communicate with you directly about a possible booking.
- Double check the URL before clicking on a search result with “ad” in the title, to be sure it originates from the hotel or website you’re interested in.
- Look for a secure connection: Make sure your personal information is being transmitted securely by ensuring the web address starts with “HTTPS” and has a “lock” icon.
- Watch for “too good to be true” deals: Be sure to comparison shop and be suspicious of a site that has prices significantly lower than those listed elsewhere.
- Contact the hotel directly to get a better deal: Often, hotels will match or even beat a hotel rate offered by a travel website.