The scammer’s goal is to get the hotel owner to send money to the scammer. Scammers will make a reservation, and request to overpay it with either a credit card or forged check. They’ll claim that the check was already made out by a vendor or partner of theirs, and they don’t wish to cancel it. The scammer will request the balance sent somewhere, usually by Western Union. Scammers are very creative and there can be many variations to this scam.
How does it work?
The scammer will book a room and claim to have no credit card. They will ask to send a bank draft, certified check, or money order to pay for the room in advance. When the check arrives it will be for an amount greater than the value of the stay. The scammer will then request the balance sent to a third party (i.e. a car rental agency) or returned to the scammer.
Since the funds are drawn on a foreign bank it may take up to three months to learn that it is fraudulent. The B&B or hotel owner is now short the amount of the check or wire they sent to the scammer. They probably also lost bookings since they held a room for a guest that was never to arrive. If the scammer paid by a credit card it is surely to be disputed by the actual card owner.
Signs of a Scammer
Overseas/International: Typically the scammer will be overseas or out of country. They know authorities rarely pursue this kind of international crime.
Urgent: Often the scammer will be acting in an urgent manner and making bookings with short notice.
Long stays or lots of rooms: They will also want long stays and a lot of rooms, in order to make the booking charge very high. The scammer will also be very vague about the actual number of guest.
No rate resistance: Scammers will not care about the rate offered.
No interest in location: They don’t care about your location, they will express little or no interest in area attractions, etc. In fact, it may often be questionable why a traveler from their origin or country will want to travel to a location like yours.
Will not address your property by name in the first e-mail: The first e-mail you receive will likely not address you specifically. This is because it will be a general email sent in mass to many properties including yours.
Strange grammar, spelling, and choice of words: The scammer’s grammar, spelling and use of punctuation will be unusual. Often the scammer will present themselves as a doctor. Another frequent ploy is that they indicate they are from a religious organization, are holding meetings in your country, and make specific reference to their “delegates” or “delegation” coming to your country.
Free e-mail account: Often the e-mail will come from a free email service like Yahoo or Hotmail. Legitimate travel agents or businesses rarely use free email accounts.
Send money: They want you to send them cash, usually by wire, and quick.
If you get one of these emails or letters, remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is. If you feel the booking is legitimate, insist on a deposit by bank transfer or credit card and insist that the balance be paid in person. Whatever happens, do not send them any funds, regardless of what form.