Ah, the beauty and freedom of travel. Relaxation, adventure, awe… and hidden fees on your hotel room bill? Yeah, it happens — and, unfortunately, hotel scams like this happen rather frequently.


When you go on vacation or when you’re traveling for any reason, you probably expect some surprise expenses, like that extra bottle of vino, that last-minute train-ride across the border to another country, or a flight change fee here and there. Even the most experienced travelers, however, probably don’t anticipate running into travel scams that can drain their bank account or steal their identity.

The stats are startling. According to CNBC, in 2017, Americans lost a collective $4 billion from online hotel scams alone. As in, this doesn’t include pickpocketing, luggage theft, or other tourist scams.

Fortunately, the good folks of Trip Savvy and Reddit have shared their experiences with some of the most devious travel and hotel scams. And the good news is you just need to be aware of a few key things to keep yourself safe.

Here’s how to protect yourself from the sneakiest hotel scams, Airbnb scams (yes, they exist), and other cons scammers try to pull on unsuspecting tourists and travelers.

The Front Desk Will Never Ask For Sensitive Information Over The Phone

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Be wary of calls asking to “verify” your credit card information.

Imagine going up to your room, taking a hot shower, getting cozy after a long day of traveling, and then getting a strange call from the front desk. They say your credit card was declined or isn’t accepted for some reason, and they need to verify your credit card information quickly to make sure everything’s OK.

Hang up, and alert the real front desk.

Guess what? Your hotel should never call you to verify payment over the phone. As Reddit user hophope explains, some scammers can get through to your room phone and will try to steal your credit card information. Be wary of anyone calling in, and go down to the desk immediately if this comes up.

Not All Restaurant Menus Are Created Equally

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Before you order in, make sure the place you’re ordering from exists.

Let’s say you come in after a long day of tourism. You walked just about everywhere, your feet hurt, and you’re starving. Room service is a good idea, right?

Not so fast. In some scams, a “restaurant” menu will appear in your room (maybe from under your door). You’ll call, give your credit card details, and wait. And wait. And wait….but the food never comes.

Make sure all food services are actually affiliated with the hotel or an actual, real restaurant.

The smartest move you can make is to ask your hotel staff directly for help. Trip Saavy also recommends researching the restaurant’s phone number so you can validate if it’s real. There’s nothing worse than being hangry on vacation and then being screwed over for your hard-earned money.

Sometimes You Don’t Need To Pay For Wi-Fi

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Check the wi-fi details upon check-in.

If you’re really on top of your game, you’ll ask about the wi-fi ahead of booking a room. Because no one wants to show up at a hotel only to have to PAY FOR wi-i. (Hello hotels: free wi-fi should be a given, period.)

However, “skimming” is a thing — and you won’t even realize it’s happening.

It’s a scam that targets hotel-goers. You’ll see an open network in the lobby or guest areas, log on, and then the scammer gets into your computer to collect your private info. The fix: Make sure the connection is secure and that it’s affiliated with the hotel.

Think hotels are the only scams out there? Nope.

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If you use Airbnb, it happens with those bookings, too.

According to travel blog Goats on the Road, one Airbnb scam is going around taking advantage of even the most experienced of travelers and digital nomads.

The blogger wrote the scam, “would’ve cost us over $3,000 USD. The scam was so ingenious, and so well put together that I feel it’s extremely important that I share it with you all so that you don’t end up falling into the same trap.”

Put simply, the scammers used a fake Airbnb site to get your money.

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After careful examination, the blogger decided the Airbnb listing felt sketchy, as it revealed the actual address on the apartment’s listing, among other odd details. They then looked at the exact URL, and it was not the official Airbnb website — it was a phishing site.

The blogger had some sound advice:

“If you’re booking on Airbnb, be very wary of communicating outside of the platform and don’t book apartments through any Airbnb websites that don’t look exactly like the regular site. Keep your eye out for small differences in the site and especially, check the URL to make sure it’s a normal Airbnb web address.”

Airbnb is designed to keep you and your money safe.

According to Airbnb, you should, “Always pay and communicate directly through the Airbnb website or app. As long as you stay on Airbnb throughout the entire process—from communication, to booking, to payment—you’re protected by our multi-layer defense strategy.”

What are some other ways to prevent booking and hotel scams?

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Watch your accounts closely. 

Even though there’s no fun in keeping an eye on your finances, you’ll want to set alerts on your bank account when traveling. According to on Reddit user who was almost scammed at a hotel, “When I buy groceries with my credit card I typically get the email showing the store and amount charged before I even get out the door. It’s reassuring to always get notified of charges. Without this notification, I may have never even noticed the fraud since my bills are all just paid automatically each month.”

Make sure that anyone who calls you knows your name.

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Seriously, if they don’t know your name, they’re probably a scam caller.

Just like Reddit user sxjohn outlines, a hotel will know your first and last name and address you by it. This is important because oftentimes a scammer will simply call random hotel room numbers until someone picks up. And if someone does, they will try and mine them for credit card info.

Avoid using a debit card when you can.

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Debit cards are less secure than credit cards.

Why? Credit cards are credit. They are not really your money.  Your debit card is directly linked to your personal bank account, and they typically aren’t as well-protected with debit cards, according to Moneywise.  Try not to use them while traveling, especially as gas stations, supermarkets, rental car stops, or while you’re booking tickets.

In fact, if you book tickets with a debit card and something goes wrong, you can’t always get your money back.

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Be smart. And book (with a credit card when possible) with legitimate companies that have a good track record.

According to Moneywise, “If you use debit to pay for tickets on Fly-By-Night Airways and they go belly up, your money is gone. It’s up to you to try to get it back. But if you book with your credit card, your credit card company will be your ally and will fight on your behalf.” Eeek.

Now that you know all about the scams, are there any traveler hacks?

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Like booking the cheapest room ahead of time and then getting upgraded.

Reddit user strongestdad said, “In off-season always book the cheapest room and more likely than not you will be upgraded to a bigger/ more expensive room. We do this all the time where I work.”

Noted, friend. You’ll want to do this well ahead of time, though, so allot a few months if you can.

You can also pull a James Bond and get the elevator to go directly to your floor.

How so? According to Reddit user Cahousenecht, it’s pretty darn simple: “Hold the door close and your floor at the same time and the elevator will skip other floors.”

Of course, this won’t work on every single elevator make or model, but it’s worth trying. Especially when you’re on the 40th floor of a hotel and your elevator stops on every floor on the way down.

Get the wi-fi password for pretty much anywhere using Foursquare.

According to travel blog Happy to Wander, you’ll want to hit up Foursquare. It’s a website and app where people share all sorts of travel tips, ratings, and reviews.

“The handiest part of this website is the “Tips” section,” they write, “where people can leave helpful recommendations for others, and it’s often here that you’ll find the WiFi password for places. So, if you need WiFi in a pinch, you can easily hop on Foursquare and sleuth around for WiFi passwords.”

Take public transport.

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And save the big bucks.

Savvy travelers know how to save money — and that’s by taking public transportation. They write that using your wits and researching transportation ahead of the time can get you farther faster without you having to hand over your credit card.

One traveler said, after they landed in Russia, “I watched all of the other tourists hop into taxis and pay US$25. Then I noticed a lonely bus stop a few steps away.”

Use your intuition

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Remember: If something feels sketchy, too good to be true, or simply “off,” pay attention to your intuition and ask questions.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, wouldn’t you rather pay for all those extra Aperol spritzes and pool loungers than to pay some scam artist for a wi-fi connection? When in doubt, stay alert and don’t be too trusting. It may sound harsh, but it’ll save your wallet and your sanity.


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