The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan (BBB) is warning consumers of a growing scam that is costing some travelers hundreds of dollars. The criminals are impersonating major brands, hoping to confuse travelers into making unnecessary payments, often asking customers to pay with a prepaid gift card. A growing number of complaints to BBB® involve scammers impersonating booking.com. Complaints allege the consumer thought they were reaching out to booking.com to make a change to their travel plans or get a refund. Often the consumer finds the phone number online through a search or on social media. The person answering the phone identifies themselves as working for booking.com. They tell the customer that to complete the change the customer must go to the store and purchase hundreds of dollars’ worth of prepaid gift cards. The impersonators promise the money will be refunded. Once the payment has been given the scammers find a reason to ask for more money, often claiming the card didn’t work.
It is important to note that none of these customers actually spoke with booking.com. Instead, the customers were tricked into calling scammers who are impersonating booking.com. Booking.com is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business. In response to customers and the Better Business Bureau, booking.com notes that it is one of several companies being targeted by impostors. The company says its own investigation has found impostors have created fake customer service numbers and posted them online in hopes of luring in travelers who are searching for a way to contact booking.com. The company has the following advice for consumers:
- Only contact Booking.comthrough our official communication channels listed on our website and/or apps
- No legitimate transaction (e.g. payments and/or reservation changes) with Booking.com will ever require you to specifically pay with gift cards or require you to give your credit card details by phone, text message or email
- Never provide any credit card or gift card details (such as the claim code) to someone you don’t know/trust
Furthermore, you should report your experience to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov.
The Better Business Bureau also recommends customers be specific when they look for business contact information. BBB has received reports from across the country from consumers who thought they were communicating with a major company, only to later learn they were dealing with a third party who had a similar phone number or web address. Victims tell BBB they have found the fake contact information through popular search engines or on social media, where scammers have created fake accounts impersonating popular brands. In many cases the customer paid for a service they did not need or could have received at a lower price from the original company. Customers can always search for a company at BBB.org, which lists verified contact information for companies across the U.S., Canada and parts of Mexico.