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Even the most alert person can occasionally be scammed on the internet. Although it’s easy to mock those supposed Nigerian princes wanting to share their wealth, one does tend to be a bit more believing when the email or phone messages contains real information that only a legitimate sender ought to have. One such scam appears to be taking advantage of the Online Travel Agency Booking.com.
I originally clued into this problem via the Spanish blog InfoViajera – and then received many reader comments when writing about it on the US version of Insideflyer. And since we recently wrote about a lucrative cashback offer involving Booking.com, I realised I needed to inform our UK readers as well…
Booking.com appears to have been hacked. After booking a hotel or apartment through the Online Travel Agency, the guest is being approached – usually via Whatsapp message – informing them that their payment has been declined. As a result, the “property” is asking them to make payment outside of Booking.com. Sometimes this involves a webpage that looks nearly identical to the real Booking.com website.
Many readers would undoubtedly notice the red flag and delete the message immediately, except that it typically contains:
- The full name of the guest
- Their phone number
- The property being reserved
- The exact dates of the reservation
- The exact amount of the reservation
And if you are accustomed to having online credit card payments declined from time to time – especially in foreign countries off the beaten track – then you can easily fall into the trap.
What is Booking.com Doing About It?
Judging by the various comments I’ve read, Booking.com claims that all is fine and that the issue is local to each property. Disturbingly, however, the prevalence of this scam suggests that:
- Booking.com has been hacked – allowing somebody access to Booking.com reservation (but crucially not payment) information
- Dozens of smaller Booking.com properties have employees operating (or falling for) a phishing scam
I can’t think of any other access point for somebody to obtain every relevant detail of your accomodation reservation…
If you are asked to make payment outside of the booking platform, it is surely a scam. Even so, some scams look more realistic than others…
Have you received a similar message after making a reservation? Let us know in the comments section…