Staying in hotels? Be aware of the potential scams.

David Pollino
Posted by David Pollino
Security

I’ve been traveling on business a lot recently. Checking into hotels, I’ve thought about the many scams targeting travelers and what I might do to help make my stays safer.

Businessman entering hotel room, rolling his luggage behind him.Travel safety often comes down to the same precautions:

  • Be careful with information.
  • Be suspicious of the unexpected.
  • If you are unsure who you are speaking with, don’t give out payment card details.
  • Take care of your valuables.

Here’s the lowdown on some of the most popular scams on the road.

Guard your room number: When the front desk tells you your room number, make sure no one else can hear. Hotel lobbies are favorite places for criminals to gather information on guests, which they can use in various ways. One common trick: A scammer learns your room number and bills your room for meals or other hotel expenses.

Make sure the front desk is calling: A fairly common scam is the “lost credit card details.” It starts with criminals gaining access to the hotel’s switchboard. They then call your room and tell you the computer system has lost your credit card details; they need them again right away. They ask for card details over the phone or suggest you come down to the lobby with your card. (The call often happens in the early hours when you’re not likely going to want to go to the lobby. They may pressure you for information by explaining the early call by saying they have to complete an audit.) If you fall for this one, the scammers will have your card details and may be ready to go on a spending spree.

A similar scam targets conference attendees. The scammer claims to be from the conference organization, and they’ve lost your card details. Cyber-criminals can easily find out which companies are holding events at hotels, and this information adds credibility to their calls.

Check that restaurant flyer: Take care with restaurant flyers found in hotels. Some may not be real restaurants, but rather a front for criminals hoping to get your credit card details when you call in an order. Check with reception for restaurant recommendations or look up the restaurant online before ordering.

Confirm the Wi-Fi network: Don’t assume “free hotel Wi-Fi” is the network you want. Cyber-thieves can create mobile hotspots and monitor your browsing, then steal your information — for example, your credit card details if you’ve made an online purchase. To help avoid this scam, always ask the front desk to confirm the correct Wi-Fi network name.

Don’t tell others more than they need to know: Be wary about what your luggage says about you. Personal information on your luggage tag can make your home a robbery target while you’re away. Consider limiting the personal information on your tag while providing enough for the airline to return lost luggage. Try listing a work address or PO Box instead of your home address, and use a cell or work phone number. I avoid putting my home number on my bag tags because it is easier to find out a related address with a home number. At the very least use a luggage tag with a flap that covers your information.

Take care with valuables, especially your cards: Keep your cards with you or lock them in the in-room safe. Hotel safes are not entirely theft-proof, but they’re better than no protection at all. Leaving your cards in your room is an obvious no-no. It’s like leaving money in full view for the taking. Another tip is to keep your cards in two places so that if you’re the victim of pickpockets, the thieves are less likely to get all of them. Take care of your cards, and your trip will likely be safer and more enjoyable.

Take a look at Corporate Travel Safety blog for yet more tips on travel safety. Being aware of these scams can help you have a safer time on your business or pleasure trip. Safe travels!

Reminder: All comments are moderated prior to publication and must follow our Community Guidelines.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great insight, David. Thank you!

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Great tips, David! I will be much more aware the next time I travel!

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Valuable tips. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    I’m looking forward to handheld card devices for cards with chips so the card never leaves me when at a restaurant, especially when traveling. I’ve used these in Canada and the handheld units work great – you can even add the tip.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Great advice here. Remember one thing about the little safes in your room. If you use it or not, be ready for a one dollar charge or moe. Most of the time it’s just added to your bill before you check out and the motel worker most of the time will not say anything about it, so one dollar here one dollar there out of your pocket. Check your bill, question what’s on it before you sign and leave.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    and check for bedbugs. esp. edges of the mattress

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Very very useful information. Very sad world that we live in. Thank you, Bank of the West.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Wow thank you for this information as we travel several times a year and never heard of this ! Again thank you

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent info..,thanks.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    I have been a victim of scammers.We were staying at the local Holiday Inn,buy where I lived.We had sold our Mobile Home,and then had nowhere to live.We thought we would stay at the Hotel in question,we put our things in storage,thinking we find a place to live shortly. O.K. all is well ,so we thought.We were there for about a month just enjoying our time there,we became friends with the staff very quickly.I felt very comfortable and secure,right.Then the phone call from the front desk,could we come up,so sure I did.When I got to the desk I saw a police officer behind the desk.Then I start to panic.So They escort me to the office,and then I’m read my rights,what is going on? Then the GM comes in and accuses us of fraud!! I said WHAT! They were accusing us of using my daughters X- husband credit card,and then that now we owed them another $3,000.00.I was so scared how could of this happened? I believe that the night person made a transaction illegally on our card.Becareful of personnel !

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Check the safe. I was in a Marrakech, Morocco hotel and the safe was just sitting on a shelf. Not attached to anything. Could have been easily replaced.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    David, thanks for the traveling tips… Wiser business trips, ahead!

    Anonymous

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Don’t do any online banking over free wifi.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    If you need to be told these security measures you’re already an idiot looking like a meal to the predators. Folks, this is no-brainer stuff. When traveling just figure everyone is out to get you and act accordingly. No reason to be unpleasant to anyone nor be paranoid, just figure everywhere you go, so does a criminal….because that’s the deal, everywhere you go there is a criminal.

    Hotel desks do not call at stupid o’clock in the morning for billing information…duh.

    Housekeeping does not knock at 10pm, thieves do.

    Yeah, let go of your bag and walk over to the desk…..it’ll be fine. Me, if my bag isn’t in my hand it’s leaning against me or the strap is under my foot.

    The lobby and desk tend to know guests, and criminals can’t just “hang around” too long. Their crimes tend to be opportunities we leave for them. If you check in and leave the keys in the car at the front, expect to be walking soon. Leave your bags “over there” and expect to need new clothes.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Great help. Thx!

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    If someone knocks at your door claiming they want to fix something, check with the front desk to verify.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Finally, an article with real world solutions.

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Please check your windows! Often they are left unlocked!

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    this is good to know for anyone who travel and stays in hotels

    Reply | 3 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Bring house shoes. Hotel carpets are not the cleanest. Disposal slippers are cheap and it won’t hurt to discardthen. Also a small plastic bag for the ice tray. I’ve heard that some young or old like to use the ice bucket for other than ice. Lastly I bring my plastic glassware with disenfectent wipes. E coli has been found on the remote controls in the nicest hotels

    Reply | 3 years ago

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