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Room Number Fraud

Phishing bait:   Scammers dupe hotel guests into giving up their credit card info.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2010]

You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. When checking in, you give the front desk your credit card information (for all the charges for your room).

You get to your room and settle in. Someone calls the front desk and asks, for example, for room 620 (which just happens to be your room). Your phone rings in your room. You answer, and the person on the other end says the following, 'This is the front desk. When checking in, we came cross a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers on the reverse side of your charge card.'

Not thinking anything unusual, you might give this person your information, since the call seems to come from the front desk. But actually, it is a scam. Someone is calling from someplace other than the hotel front desk. They ask for a random room number, then, sounding very professional, ask you for credit card information and address information. They are so smooth, you will think you are talking to the front desk.

If you ever encounter this problem in your travels, tell the caller that you will come down to the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone acting like a front desk employee called to scam you of your credit card information.
 

Origins:   This helpful heads up has been circulating on the Internet since January 2008.

The switchboards of most reputable hotels follow a policy of not connecting incoming calls to guests' rooms unless callers can supply the guests' name. (Some hotels take that policy
an extra step by requiring both guests' names and room numbers before putting through outside calls.) Therefore, while the advice about not giving out one's credit card information to anyone who telephones to ask for it is always worth heeding, in this particular instance, the warning that encompasses it is a bit overblown. Those looking to "phish" your credit card number and the 3-digit security code carried on its back by pretending to be working at the front desk aren't going to be able to smoothly run this con at hotel after hotel, because most places they telephone will refuse to put their calls through — their demands to be connected to "Room 620" will be stonewalled by those managing the property's switchboard unless and until they can also pony up the right name that matches with the hotel's records of who is staying in that room.

However, that this policy is widespread doesn't mean every hotel in existence observes it or that a particularly charming scam artist couldn't occasionally succeed in wheedling a gullible hotel switchboard operator into putting through a call on the basis of a bare room number and nothing else. Also, some hotels allow guests to direct dial to other rooms, which means a con artist who took up residence in such an establishment could potentially run this fraud on others staying there. It is therefore a good idea to always be mindful of the potential for fraud and to make it your own personal policy to never give out credit card information to anyone who calls asking for it, no matter who that person claims to be. In the case of hotel stays, that means not providing such information to the caller, but rather making a trip down to the front desk, or at the very least placing your own call to that facility to ask if there's a problem with your card.

Barbara "desk job" Mikkelson

Last updated:   27 April 2010

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