Beware of hotel billing scam while traveling during the holiday season

It’s the time of year where people are busy, overwhelmed and exhausted, making them more vulnerable to scams. It’s a busy travel time, and many people are staying in hotels over the holidays. One hotel guest FOX 4 spoke with said he was almost scammed after a caller claimed to be from the billing department of his hotel.

“They just said that they were with the billing department at the Sheraton, and that there was a problem with my credit card, and they needed to review my credit card information,” said Kevin Hall, who  is staying at the Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center. He received a call on the hotel phone early Sunday morning.

“Don’t get many calls on the hotel phone anymore, if anyone’s going to call me they’ll call me on my cell phone, so I just assumed that the call actually came from within the hotel,” Hall added.

Hall thought it was possible there could be a security hold on his card, he’s traveling and it’s the holidays, but wanted to look at his statements first. When he couldn’t find a problem he called the front desk to get transferred to the billing department.

“They were closed on Sunday,” said Hall.

A manager assured him all charges had gone through just fine.

“It was kind of obvious at that point it had to be a scam,” Hall said.

Bruce Boettcher, the hotel general manager, says company policy allows the desk to transfer a call to a room if they ask for a guest by name. If they ask for a room number, the caller must have the name of the guest in that room. He says the hotel will never ask for your personal information over the phone.

“They may request that you come to the front desk, because there’s been an issue with your card. They may request that you stop by the front desk on the way in or out, but they will never do that over the phone,” said Cynthia Riggins, the Director of Vacation Travel at Acendas.

She says hotels will never disclose any guest information. So how did someone get Mr. Hall’s name and room number?

“It’s pretty easy to do. For example, you’re out at a restaurant, you’re out of town, somebody says, ‘oh, where are you staying?’ ‘oh, I’m over at the Sheraton,’ so you leave your receipt, perhaps you throw it in the garbage. But now it’s got your name, and now they know you’re staying at the hotel,” Riggins explained.

“The person had agreed to call me back around 1 o’clock in the afternoon, which they did, the manager here at the hotel actually took the call,” added Hall.

He wants everyone to be aware of this scam, because he says the man seemed legitimate.

“If they call me I’m sure they’re calling other people, whether it’s in this hotel or any hotel,” Hall said.

Riggins recommends checking your billing statements often while traveling during the holidays. She also recommends using credit cards over debit cards while traveling and says with a credit card, when fraudulent activity is reported, it usually goes away instantly in most cases. She says it’s more difficult with a debit card.

She says to NEVER give out any personal information over the phone. Call the person back if they call you first.

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