A local business owner was recently scammed by a Hotels.com impostor resulting in a loss of $3,000. Further research by the Better Business Bureau uncovered that a network of scammers is using Expedia Group’s name, the parent company of Hotels.com, to take consumers for thousands of dollars. Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest and Pacific has also received numerous reports in the past several days from consumers who’ve lost as much as $3,700. Altogether, consumers have reported similar scams from 16 different states and Canada, with losses totaling over $10,000.
Here's how the scam unfolded….
The local consumer arrived at the hotel where his original reservation was made using Hotels.com and was given a room that did not reflect his booking. The hotel clerk gave him the customer service number for Hotels.com and advised him to call to straighten out the problem. The consumer called Hotels.com and was told by an agent he needed to call Expedia at 855-419-1219 to speak with a manager. When he called, he spoke with a “Jason Patel”, who claimed to be the General Manager on duty. When the Alabama consumer gave the details of the reservation, where Mr. Patel told him that he could book a different hotel room but needed additional money on gift cards. Mr. Patel stayed on the phone with the consumer the entire time he was purchasing the gift cards. An investigation conducted by the BBB confirmed that there is no Jason Patel working as a General Manager for Expedia or Hotels.com.
Expedia.com, a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating, said, “We are happy to team up with the BBB to educate people about this scam and share tips on how they can protect themselves…. Our goal is always to ensure travelers have a seamless and trouble-free booking experience with us, and it’s incredibly unfortunate that scammers have disrupted our customers’ well-deserved vacations and travel plans. Rest assured that we are also working hard to identify ways to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Expedia Group is taking steps to counteract these impostors, including working with popular search engines to reduce the occurrence of fake ads, making its customer service contact number more visible, and adding information about these scams to its customer service portal.
BBB North Alabama offers the following tips for consumers to protect themselves:
- Trustworthy companies will never demand a gift card as any form of payment and consumers should never have to pay to get money back. This includes reading numbers off a gift card to someone over the phone.
- Using a search engine does not guarantee getting the correct number. Always go directly to a website to find contact information. Large companies often have a ‘Contact Us’ button or a help hotline number directly on their web page.
- Verify customer service numbers given to you, even by company personnel.
Source: BBB.org, BBB North Alabama and BBB of Northwest + Pacific