FTC Alerts Travelers to Misleading Online Hotel Booking Sites
On Tuesday, FTC consumer education specialist Amy Hebert wrote that the commission "has heard from people who searched online and thought they were booking on a hotel website, only to find they’d unknowingly been doing business with someone else."
As a result, those unfortunate travelers have encountered problems like arriving at the hotel and finding no reservation, being charged undisclosed fees, being unable to cancel or modify a reservation and having their credit card charged from a third party instead of the hotel, among others.
Hebert recommends travelers take their time and look carefully at their search results before beginning the hotel booking process online.
"If you know you want to deal directly with a hotel, take the time to look for signs you might be on a third-party site, like another company's logo," writes Hebert. "It's also a good idea to find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than rely on what’s listed on the site."
Lesley Fair wrote a similar warning directed at business travelers, pointing out that avoiding a scam isn't always as easy as it seems. "If you type a hotel name into a search engine, it's unwise to assume that the first result that pops up will always be the official site. Some third-party reservation companies pay for the top spot on the results page or buy prominent space on the right."
Business and leisure travelers alike are advised to carefully read URLs and reservation details, have a receipt handy ahead of their scheduled check-in and always double-check with the hotel ahead of time to make sure the reservation is in the company's system.
To understand just how widespread these type of online scams are, the American Hotel and Lodging Association reports they impact roughly 2.5 million hotel bookings every year, per USA Today's Nancy Trejos.
More by Patrick Clarke
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