Meet Ella. For years, she has been about juggling work and personal responsibilities. Of course, like most of us, she constantly thinks of going on a dream vacay — an out-of-town travel, preferably to a beach. Finally, after years of saving more than enough money (and vacation leaves!), she’s now ready to go on an all-out, no-holds-barred, spare-no-expense partying in one of the top beach destinations in the country — Boracay.
First and foremost, before traveling to Boracay, Ella must plan for everything — from the bikinis she’ll be wearing to the place she’ll be staying. For the bikinis and all the stuff she would need, she went to the mall to buy all the beach must-haves celebrities and social media influencers have been endorsing. As for the hotel accommodation, she turned to an online booking site. Since it is one of the top results on Google, she thought it must be okay and decided to go ahead and pay for the room using her debit card for a week-long stay.
After a week of anticipation, she finally got to the Boracay hotel she had previously booked online. However, when Ella talked to the front desk staff, she found out that her booking does not exist.
She has been scammed online.
Thanks to the Internet, we can do pretty much anything online — shop, pay the bills, order food, and of course, book hotel reservations. It is very convenient but it’s also a double-edged sword that can be used to make your life easier or, unfortunately like what happened to Ella, harder.
Well, Ella isn’t the first one and probably wouldn’t be the last. According to a study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), about 55 million hotel booking scams has been happening in the US alone every year. That’s about $3.9 billion pocketed annually by unscrupulous groups and/or individuals who has the know-how in using the Internet to scam people. With all these online booking scams happening, can anyone be sure of their hotel bookings using the Net?
Yes, of course! It’s just a matter of being constantly on the lookout for those crooked sites. Here are some easy steps to avoid online booking scams:
“S” Marks the Spot
Yes, it’s as simple as looking for the “S” at the website’s URL. If, for example, you’re looking to book online at Alta Vista de Boracay, the website you should be looking at should start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. The “S” just basically means it’s a secured website. Easy, right?
Lock, Stock, and Two Iced Glasses of Margarita
Another simple way of checking if the website you’re looking at is legit is if it has a lock symbol on the upper left side of the search bar. This also means that the site you’re looking at is secured. Check Alta Vista de Boracay’s website now and see for yourself.
Call Before You Go-Go
Calling the hotel directly is a great way of making sure that the website you’re on is the hotel’s actual one. Or if you’re looking to go through a third-party booking site, you can make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable one just by calling the hotel and asking if the third-party booking site you’re on is affiliated with the hotel in any way. Also, after making an online hotel reservation, it’s best to call the hotel to confirm that your reservation has been made. Check Alta Vista de Boracay’s contact number on the hotel’s official website.
Credit or Debit?
Say you’ve already made the hotel reservation online and you later found out that you’ve been (god forbid!) scammed; you’d be thankful that you’ve used your credit card instead of actually paying with your hard-earned money. That’s because most credit card companies offer more fraud protection than using debit. Aside from that, using your credit card can also protect you from phishing scams — a scam wherein the culprits extract your financial information and use it to hoard more moolah from your bank account online. So yeah, go credit, not debit.
Loyalty Programs Are the Way to Go
Most hotels offer loyalty programs that reward frequent travelers and guests with lots of freebies and discounts. Aside from the amazing perks, taking advantage of these programs means you’re directly dealing with the hotel itself, thus, eliminating the chance of you getting scammed online.
If It’s Too Good to Be True, Then It Probably Is
Most of the time, scammers will even go to great lengths of offering you the lowest rates in the best places. Well, the good rule of thumb is always if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. It all still boils down to directly calling and double-checking if the hotel or a reputable travel agency really do offer such low rates.
Rushing, Crashing, and Burning
Don’t be rushed into making a decision. Oftentimes, fake hotel reservation scammers will email you — saying that only few rooms are left or the “low-rate promo” is only available up to a certain time only — to pressure you in booking a room immediately. If you encounter any of these, it’s best to avoid them.
Beware of Non-Refundable Full Payment
Most hotels will only fully get the payment when you arrive; and most also has a reasonable — oftentimes, consumer-friendly — refund and trip change policy. If a third-party website asks for a full payment beforehand or if they don’t clearly display any of their refund and trip change policies in their websites, then there’s certainly something wrong with them.
Always ask for the total breakdown of all the fees you’ll be paying, including the reservation fees, taxes, etc. Hotels and reputable third-party booking agents will always be more transparent, thus, giving you all the information you’ll be asking for, as opposed to online booking scammers who will initially offer the “lowest rates” but most likely have all the hidden charges.
Research, Research, Research
Lastly, do a bit of research about the hotel or third-party booking agents you’re dealing with. Always read the reviews of the hotel and/or online travel agency before making a decision. Just make sure that you’re on a reputable review site such as TripAdvisor. Also, make sure that the reviews you’ll be reading are the most recent and, of course, unbiased. The reviews should come from actual guests and not by other hotels and/or agencies looking to taint a hotel’s reputation. Better yet, you can always talk to friends, family, and acquaintances who had been to the hotel resort you’re planning to go to and get recommendations personally from them.
Protecting yourself from online booking scammers is as easy as pie. You just have to follow these simple but effective tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to these frauds. As for Ella, she has learned her lesson and is now a smart traveler who only deals with legit online booking sites.
If you’re planning to go to Boracay when it opens this October, Alta Vista de Boracay is definitely the best place to stay. What with the amazing amenities it offers, your stay in Boracay will surely be a memorable one. Make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate travel agent affiliated with Alta Vista de Boracay, or better yet, talk to directly to their personnel through chat or by calling the number listed in the website.