Five Hotel Scams Which Could Ruin Your Next Hotel Stay?
A s both an experienced traveler and originally from the city of New York, I consider myself fairly astute in protecting myself from scams where my intuition typically never fails to alert me when someone is trying to pull a fast one over on me — and I am constantly thankful for that.
“You might assume that you would see a scam coming from a mile away, but the tricksters these days have gotten increasingly clever”, warns editor Brittany Jones Cooper of Yahoo! Travel pertaining to five hotel scams which could ruin your next hotel stay…
…and in that article, she shows five scams which you could encounter in your next stay in a hotel room — and I have to admit, I had never thought about some of them, as I fortunately have never been the subject of a scam in a hotel room.
The subheads and the quotes in this article — unless otherwise noted — were written by Brittany Jones Cooper; but the comments are mine.
Scam: Fake delivery menu
Whenever I enter a room at a hotel property which is considered part of a lower-end or mid-range brand, more often than not, I will see loose menus floating around — usually on the desk or the dresser. I often push them off to the side because I do not like to be in a room with the clutter of advertising; and I have never ordered from a menu in the room unless it is on the very rare occasion that I order room service offered as an official service within a hotel property.
Technology these days allows anyone with a few hundred dollars to buy a cheap computer, a color printer, ink, and a ream or two of paper to print out what could appear to be authentic menus. As I reported in this article pertaining to how to tell if an e-mail message is a scam, it is quite easy these days to download even a reasonable facsimile of an official logo to give a semi-professional look to any document — professional enough to fool a number of people to fall for the bait.
In fact, why purchase the equipment at all? A potential perpetrator can purportedly purchase a night in a hotel room for less than $100.00 and have free or reduced cost access to the facilities in the business center of the hotel property. Use the color printer there from the computer and voilà! A couple of hundred fliers with menus are ready to be placed in rooms.
Talking to the staff at the front desk of the hotel at which you are staying and ask for suggestions for dinner is a good idea offered by Brittany Jones Cooper; but there is the possibility that representatives of those recommended dining options could have paid a nominal fee for the recommendations. That is not necessarily a bad thing; but they may not be the best options for you. I personally would simply research dining options in the area via the Internet before I travel…
…and better yet, sometimes that research can yield a coupon or a discount available only via the Internet — so you could potentially save money as well as ensure that you are patronizing a legitimate dining option.
I am the type of person who has no problem getting into a car and picking up my food. For some reason, I prefer that; and sometimes I will also get other tasks out of the way while I am out — such as fueling the car with gasoline, for example.
Scam: Wi-Fi skimming
It is extremely tempting to find a connection which will potentially allow you to access the Internet for free. Do not do it. “Unfortunately, criminals will use this to their advantage. Wi-Fi skimming involves using a free Wi-Fi network to steal information from unsuspecting people, and sadly, it’s becoming more and more prevalent.”
The good news is that free Wi-Fi access to the Internet is also becoming more prevalent this year at brands such as Hyatt Hotels, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Marriott International. Also, there are hotel properties which may charge for Wi-Fi usage from the room but may offer it for free in general public places such as the lobby.
The staff at the front desk will usually impart to you how to access the Wi-Fi service offered in the hotel property, including the password. If not — or if you intend to access the Internet using the free Wi-Fi service in the hotel lobby, ensure that you first find out the correct pertinent information from a member of the front desk staff before you log on for access.
“Some phone carriers allow you to use your smartphone as a hotspot, so if you travel a lot, it’s worth considering this feature. It will add a few bucks to your bill, but it’s better than getting your identity stolen.”
Scam: The late night call from the front desk
Although I appreciate the service, sometimes it gets annoying when the telephone rings at an inopportune time just so that someone from the front desk is attempting to ensure that I am completely satisfied with the room. I usually do not answer the telephone. If there is a message, I will listen to it and call back if necessary.
If there is a problem — whether or not it is of a financial nature — I usually will go to the lobby and speak to a member of the front desk in person.
“It’s important to never give your credit card number over the phone at a hotel.” I will go one step further: never give your credit card number using a telephone at all unless you know that your telephone connection is secure — such as using a land line, if possible — and that you are completely certain that you are speaking to a legitimate representative of the company which needs to process your payment.
“Always book your hotel with a credit card instead of a debit card. Many credit cards have fraud protection, and this will prevent the thieves from emptying out your checking account.” I was at a bank recently; and a customer service representative informed me that the bank offers similar protection for debit cards as they do for credit cards. Regardless, I still do not use a debit card — if only because I enjoy receiving cash back from the transactions with the credit cards which I use.
Scam: Paid for beachfront, but you can’t see the beach
Although Brittany Jones Cooper gives good advice here, I rarely ever pay more for a room with a better view, so this does not affect me.
Part of the reason is that I have elite level status in greater than one frequent guest loyalty program; so more often than not, I get a room with a better view anyway.
I stayed as a guest at the Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa hotel property some years ago. The view from my room faced the jungle. That did not matter to me, because I spent most of my day at Iguazú Falls up close anyway; and both the hotel lobby and a common outdoor balcony at the top of the hotel property had a great view of the falls anyway. While it would have been nice to have had a view of the falls from my room, I was quite satisfied with the jungle view — especially since most of the time in my room was at night anyway — and I saved money on the room rate.
Scam: Spending a fortune on the hotel’s bottled water
“If the water is indeed unsafe to drink, consider taking a trip outside the hotel to buy a gallon jug to drink during your stay. It will save you money and give you peace of mind.”
I never purchase anything from the mini bar; and I rarely ever purchase anything at an airport or from the gift shop in the hotel property. The reason is because what is sold is usually significantly overpriced.
Whether or not the water is safe to drink, I will typically buy a gallon jug of water or equivalent at a local store; and I will take either an empty water bottle of mine or purchase one at the same store. The gallon jug is left in the room; and I take the smaller bottle with me while I am out. Whenever I am back in the room, I refill the bottle as necessary from the jug. This usually works well for me.
You can never be too careful when traveling. I hope that my comments in addition to the advice offered by Brittany Jones Cooper was helpful to you…
…but of course — as they say — “your mileage may vary”; and you might have your own tips and advice on how to protect yourself from scams which can potentially be perpetrated from your hotel room. If so, please share them as well as your experiences.
Thank you in advance.