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How to avoid getting scammed when booking a hotel


With the rising number of hotel data leaks, an online security expert offers tips for digitally safe travel.

 

Last year, a single data breach at the hotel giant Marriott International exposed personal records of  5.2 million hotel guests. At least 142  million people have been victims of cyber attacks and had their sensitive data leaked by hotels. These numbers show that cybersecurity should be a priority for the hospitality business.

 

 

“The problem with these data breaches is that guests sometimes don’t even know that their data got breached. Booking.com, for example, received a 475,000$ fine in April of this year because they didn’t report the breach to authorities on time. Sadly, people found out about the breach one year after the data was stolen,” says a digital security expert at NordVPN Daniel Markuson.

 

Even though nearly 70% of hotel guests believe that hotels don't do enough to ensure the security of their clients' data, guests themselves can take some measures to mitigate the cyber risks associated with booking a hotel room online. Here is a guide by Daniel Markuson that can help to book a hotel in a digitally safe manner. 

 

Better check twice 

Scammers like pretending to be hotel representatives and trick guests into giving away their personal information (like credit card details) or changing their booking details (e.g. changing hotel location, payment method, date of arrival, and other). They then trick travellers into transferring some extra fees to scammers’ bank accounts. So, travellers should always read the property policies, including payment or damage deposits and the additional fees section.  

 

“If you ever have any questions, contact the hotel by email or call the phone number provided on the official website. That way, no scammers can ever trick you,” Daniel Markuson recommends. 

 

Avoid third-party brands

It is always safer to book a room directly on the hotel’s website. Websites of trustworthy hotels have “HTTPS” in their URL. A padlock symbol will also appear in the browser’s URL bar if the connection to the website is encrypted. Legit websites will also have a clean design and clear structure.

 

If you choose to book a hotel through a third-party site, choose a reputable and well-known brand. Avoid those that have phrases like “best hotel deals” in their website’s domain name and offer unreasonably low prices. Trustworthy websites usually have high-quality interactive visuals as well as clear and grammatically correct texts. 

 

Stay connected to VPN during payments

Hotels and travel agencies usually ask guests to provide their billing information to secure the reservation. Security expert Daniel Markuson recommends using credit cards instead of debit cards as they often include fraud protection. Using a VPN is recommended when the guest is paying for the stay in advance, especially if they’re connected to public Wi-Fi: 

 

“Travellers like to make reservations on the go, which is quite convenient but also makes data more vulnerable. VPN helps to encrypt the traffic even if you are using public Wi-Fi. Without a VPN, your transactions and online activity, along with sensitive information like credit card numbers, can be accessed by hackers and used to steal your money or identity,” Markuson comments.

 

Keep your logins private

Bigger hotels and third-party sites sometimes offer to create an account to control your current reservations. They also suggest saving payment details for your future bookings. While it is not recommended to save your payment details on any website, people still use this feature as it is very convenient.  So, make sure to enable multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of security whenever you are making any payments online. It is also important to use complex and safe passwords for your logins. Password managers, like NordPass, help to generate sophisticated passwords without the need to remember them, as you can access them easily on any devices you use.

 

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Published: 2 June 2021

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