Don't Fall for These Three Hotel Scams

Three points to be aware of at your hotel - and how to stop the scam cold

By preparing yourself against common hotel scams, you can make sure you stay safe on your travels.
Louis Fox/Digital Vision

Many travelers view their hotel rooms as a safe space while far away from home. From the comfort of their room, modern adventurers may feel invulnerable, allowing themselves to let their guard down. However, even the most savvy world travelers are sometimes unaware of the risks of sophisticated hotel scams that start right inside their hotel rooms.

Even when travelers think they are safest, danger is always lurking around the corner. Because tourists and business travelers are often considered an easy target, scam artists are always looking to victimize this group - and hotel scams provide an easy path towards their goal of separating traveler from cash.

How can travelers tell if a hotel scam is as slimy as some of their hotel surfaces? Here are three common hotel scams every traveler should avoid.

Hotel Scam No. 1: Fake Hotel Food Delivery

It's not uncommon to find a number of menus in any given hotel room offering local dining options. When it seems like even waiters are out to target travelers, dining in can feel like a very tempting option. Although the menu and phone number look authentic, travelers could end up ordering from a restaurant that doesn't exist at all.

Here's how the hotel scam works: the scam artist creates and prints realistic food menu. Once created, the documents are slid underneath the doors of hotel rooms, inviting guests to place an order. During the call, travelers are often asked to pay with their credit card. In the end, the food never comes, and the scam artists get away with the guest's credit card information.

Before deciding to order from a hotel room menu, make sure the restaurant actually exists. A simple internet search of restaurants in the area of the hotel will yield plenty of dining options. Those who have doubts should always ask the front desk for restaurant recommendations. 

Hotel Scam No. 2: Fake Front Desk Charges

Many high quality hotels are trained to make a phone call to travelers rooms 15 minutes after checking in, just to make sure that their accommodations are perfect. But smart hotel scam artists know that a traveler with their guard down can be taken advantage of easily through the simple "courtesy call."

Although it's becoming less common, the front desk call scam can still be a problem - especially in developing parts in the world. It starts when a traveler gets a phone call in their room from someone claiming to be at the hotel's front desk. Often times, they will claim that the credit card hold was declined, and they need to re-verify their payment method. As a convenience, they can take credit card information over the phone, so as not to bother the traveler.

A real hotel staff member will never ask for credit card information over the phone. Those who receive a phone call about a credit card problem should never give the calling party any information, as this is a sign of the front desk hotel scam. Instead, always offer to come down to the front desk to sort it out. If the caller insists that it must be taken care of immediately, then simply hang up, and contact the hotel front desk to report the incident.

Hotel Scam No. 3: "Free" WiFi Connections

Nobody enjoys paying for wireless internet access at their hotels. This makes the "Free Wi-Fi" hotspot popup even more tempting for travelers who want access to the outside world.

However, wireless internet "skimming" is a new and growing hotel scam that targets travelers with the promise of free internet access. Common in public areas of the hotel, the scam works by setting up a "free" internet hotspot, often named "Free Wi-Fi" or something similar. Though the internet connection will be free to access, the data can route through several points - including a scam artist's computer. Because the hotel scam artist is controlling the connection, they can collect all the data a traveler transmits.

This can include (but is not limited to) websites, usernames, and any passwords used during the session.

Before connecting to a network, make sure that the hotel network is a secure connection. Many secured offer a two-step verification process, and require travelers to hold a password or other form of identification. Other secure networks will usually have the name of the property or hotel chain in the network ID, and will advertise their wireless network on printed materials. Be sure to ask which is the preferred network at your hotel, and how to access it once on property.

Avoiding hotel scams entirely simply takes a little know-how of what to be aware of, and awareness on the traveler's part By knowing the hotel scam tricks, every traveler can worry less about losing their identity, and focus on having a great trip.