We have just been alerted by the Better Business Bureau about a travel scam that is costing some people a lot of money!
As we understand it, criminals are impersonating major brands. The idea is to confuse travelers into making unnecessary payments. One of their telltale moves, is when they ask you to pay with a prepaid gift card.
Apparently one of their favorite targets is booking.com.
An Online Scam
The victims thought they were contacting booking.com to make a change to their travel plans or to get a refund. They found a phone number online by using a search engine or on social media. But they got a fake number.
The person answering the phone identified themselves as working for booking.com. They told the customer that in order to complete the change they’d have to go to the store and purchase hundreds of dollars worth of prepaid gift cards.
Of course, the impersonators promise the money will be refunded. Once the payment has been given – the scammers find a reason to ask for more money. They give an excuse, like claiming the card didn’t work.
For instance, one victim wanted to change a reservation. But in order to make the change, he was told he had to make a transaction in the same amount of that reservation. To do that – he had go to the store and buy a “booking.com” gift card. Well, of course, those don’t exist, so they told him that a Google Play gift card would work too. So he did that, and allegedly the codes didn’t work.
They kept all the money.
Another called what she thought was Booking.com to cancel. She was told their server couldn’t take any major credit cards, Therefore, she had to buy a hotels.com gift card to pay for the room.
She bought one for the amount of the room. For some reason, that card “wasn’t sufficient.” She then was instructed to buy two $500 gift cards (apparently not from the same place). After she bought those and called them back. She was told she needed to buy another $1,000 of cards to receive her reimbursement. She never saw a dime of that money again.
Hint: When somebody wants payments in gift cards, it’s probably a scam.
In fact, none of these customers actually spoke with booking.com. Instead, the customers were tricked into calling scammers. They were impersonators. Booking..com is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business.
Booking.com is one several companies being targeted for this travel scam. The company says its own investigation has found impostors have created fake customer service numbers and posted them online. They are bait to lure unsuspecting customers searching for a way to contact booking.com.
Take This Advice
1. Only contact Booking.com through their official communication channels. Those are listed on their website or apps.
2. No legitimate transaction (e.g. payments and/or reservation changes) with Booking.com will ever require you to pay with gift cards. Nor will they require you to give your credit card details by phone, text message or email
3. Never provide any credit card or gift card details (such as the claim code) to someone you don’t know and trust
Go to the Source
We agree with the Better Business Bureau when they recommend that you be specific when you look for business contact information. The BBB has received reports from across the country from consumers who thought they were communicating with a major company, only to later learn they were dealing with a third party who had a similar phone number or web address.
Victims told the BBB that they found the fake contact information through popular search engines or on social media. That’s where scammers have created fake accounts impersonating popular brands.
In many cases the victims paid for a service they did not need, or could have received at a lower price from the real company. Customers can always search for a company at BBB.org, which lists verified contact information for companies across the U.S., Canada and parts of Mexico.