When it comes to travel scams and hustles, it is not surprising that travellers half expect to worry the worst about what accommodation they are likely to be turning up to after several hours flying - it is after all, where they be sleeping, living and generally eating.
Hotels, for travellers, stand for security and privacy, and sitting at a laptop thousands of miles away it is not difficult to agonise over the best deal for your budget, its location and a myriad of other difficulties that could arise.
While travellers are now wiser thanks to the rise of TripAdvisor and other travel-related forums that point up the short falls of hotel descriptions and reality, they may not be so wise on the scams that hotels and their staff might pull. So, here our next instalment in the Definitive Travel Scam series with our list of some of the Top Hotel Scams to be wary of when you go on your travels.
1. The Midnight Phone Call
When the phone rings in the middle of the night at your hotel room, it's the last thing you would expect, let alone use. Nevertheless, answering could see you sucked into a scam in which the caller, posing as the front desk, will politely apologise and alert you to the fact that your credit card details have not been processed correctly. Inevitably, they ask you for the details, your name and the card's number, and then disappear into the night to spend in your name and on your account.
Wise Traveller says: Don't give any credit card details over the phone, ask for their name and if you have to, only clear the information and your details in person at the front desk - even if it is in the middle of the night.
A standard con is for you to be effectively bounced out of a hotel that you had booked into, for alternative accommodation as your original choice is overbooked. Quite commonly, you are being squeezed for profit as the alternative accommodation, which your original hotel is paying for, is cheaper than what the room you were likely to be buying.
Wise Traveller says: Don't take no for an answer and demand a room and remind them, with downloaded paperwork, of their commitment to you. Threaten them with bad website reviews or calling the authorities and it may well work.
3. Free Wi-Fi - why not?
With the hooks being 'free' and 'wi-fi', it is inevitable that laptop and smartphone users will log on to any wi-fi spot without duly checking the security. Piggybacking on unsecured networks could well see the wi-fi operator stealing your credentials for a free run on your credit card or used in ID fraud. Yet, the likelihood of these crimes are likely to be perpetrated in the comfort or own hotel room. So be careful.
Wise Traveller says: Simple steps of updating computer security and malware protection; check the legitimacy of the wi-fi provider; disable automatic connections and keep your credit card details elsewhere than stored on the trusty computer; only use free Wi-Fi if you need to physically obtain a password before you can log in. Avoid banking and credit card transactions.
4. Hotel Descriptions
Travellers, the world over, are more than aware of this ruse, where the hotel description on the internet does not come up to scratch in the cold hard reality. Hotels with rooms overlooking pools and beaches are instead facing construction sites and miles out of town are the bread and butter of most websites.
Wise Traveller says: Research all the aspects, backed up with hotel reviews, to ensure that what you are booking is indeed what you will be paying for. Many hotels do reserve the right to change rooms, however do not be afraid to get a ask for the downgraded rate if you paid for the a specific view room.
5. 'Friendly' Hotel Guests
Another scam which is likely to be perpetrated by locals, rather than hotel stayers. With a ring of scammers, they will probably tackle you in the bar, get friendly, show you the ropes and then, in the meantime, target your room for valuables, or put your security at risk.
Wise Traveller says: Keep detached and distant from strangers in the hotel lobby and bar, unless you are staying right there. Think twice about being led on to other nightspots and keep your wallet, money and credit card tight.
6. Room Maintenance
Not so common, but very effective is the call from Hotel maintenance, seeking to fix something in the room you just checked in to, even apologising that they should have attended to it prior to your arrival. In reality it could be a con, a couple waiting in the lobby for a guest to check in, the woman will call the room faking the need for maintenance, with the accomplice changing into overalls and coming to the room, the objective being to swap the door cards our during the quick visit and ransacking your room as soon as you go out.
Wise Traveller says: Confirm maintenance with a call to the Hotel Manager straight away, you might even help catch these ones. Otherwise ask the caller what it is and simply tell the caller to arrange the maintenance after you check out.
7. Car Valet
A simple scam is providing your keys to have your car valet and you find later there is no Valet on duty. Also be careful of leaving anything of value in your car, there is a high risk of it going astray by the time you check out. Also be wary of Hotel car parking in general, these are particularly ripe hunting grounds for petty criminals.
Wise Traveller says: If you have to take you car, never leave anything of value in it, and unless absolutely sure park your own car in the hotel car park.
8. Post Check Out Charges
Less a problem in larger chain hotels are the post stay charges, these can be as small as mini bar all the way to broken items or the smoking in a non smoking room fee (although this would be fair if that's what you did).
Wise Traveller says: Unless the hotel has a legitimate claim just threaten to contact your credit card company that there has been an unauthorised or fraudulent claim processed by the hotel, in most cases this will be enough as the hotel generally cannot afford to loose the ability to accept credit cards.
Hotel Related Scams To Be Wary Of
Although these are not specifically scams associated with the Hotel you may have booked, her are a few other scams and cons you should probably be aware of indirectly related to hotels.
Hotel Closed Unexpectedly
More a taxi scam, it is simply the taxi driver maintaining your hotel was unexpected closed in the past day or so and he highly recommends going to straight to a hotel he knows well that has a room. Usually this happens late at night.
Wise Traveller says: These days simply threatening to call the hotel on your cell/mobile will alleviate the attempt or demand that he take you to the hotel to confirm the closure once there he will probably say he was mistaken about the hotel and apologise. Click here for more taxi scam to be wary of.
Timeshare/Holiday Club Scams
Very common in tourist holiday spots like Spain, Thailand, Bali and Mexico is the seduction of owning your on little piece of paradise with lots of benefits thrown in and the promise of guaranteed income or free holidays for the rest of your life. In many cases the companies are fly by night operations or companies built on a very slim premise which more often than not collapse with the result that all monies paid disappear.
Wise Traveller says: There are of course a number of very reputable Holiday Clubs, the simple piece of advice is never ever enter a contract or hand over money without doing proper research. The 'only today' offer will almost certainly be there tomorrow and the next day and the next if you satisfy yourself after research this is a good company and a reasonable proposition. Avoid the seduction of free nights stay or free goodies unless you are fully prepared for the hard sales pitch to follow. Research, research research.
Andy Probert left the British rat race after a 25 year journalist and PR specialist to live in Turkey and now Cyprus, a compulsive traveller his favourite places include Vietnam and India among many. Amongst his travels Andy continues to write freelance and still maintains PR client base.