(WWBT) - It's summer and that means many of you are planning those vacation getaways. But before you book your hotel online, there is a warning you will want to hear about.
The Better Business Bureau is warning about fake sites offering reservations. If you are not careful, your dream vacation could be ruined and your money could end up in the hands of criminals.
A quick search online and you could be on your way to that perfect vacation. But in an alert posted to its website, the BBB says surf with caution. Crooks are betting your guard is down. Criminals create fake hotel booking websites.
Robert Reed with SMI Hotel Group says the crooks are good... and people fall for it.
"A scam that has come up recently is fake booking websites that appear legitimate online, when they are actually going to operators that are scamming people, taking their money and then not necessarily making the reservations at the hotel," he explains.
Bottom line, don't believe what you see online. Eric Terry with Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association says the fraudulent sites can look real, right down to the logos.
"You may see two or three of those when you do a search for a hotel, before you actually get to the one that is the real hotel site, so you have to very careful with that," he says.
Also keep in mind, if you're on a fake website, all the contact information is fraudulent and you shouldn't trust a phone number or email. Remember the website could be similar to a legitimate site, so double check. A good safety measure is when you're putting your credit card information -- look for "https" in the web address -- that's a sign that the site you are using is legitimate.
"Some things that we do in trying to fight these scams sites, is go after them from a trademark standpoint, because we own the trademarks to our brands and sometimes the sites will use our names in the URL and appear to be legitimate, so we are fighting that," Reed says.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association also posted a warning and advises consumers to call and book directly with the hotel where they want to stay. Experts also say be sure to comparison shop and always be suspicious of a deal that seems to good to be trusted.
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