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Staying in hotels? Be aware of the potential scams.

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!

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