Hotel Booking Scams, Scammers target Desperate, Exhausted Travelers, something Lookout for during your next travel..!!
2023 has been the year of travel for me and my better half. We have been on the road or in transit from hotel to hotel almost every month of the year.
January was Yercaud, February it was Coimbatore, March was Mysore and April-May was Coorg and Hyderabad. In June it was Ooty and in July it was Thailand. August was for Pondicherry and September was for Delhi, Jammu, and Mumbai..!!
This story is about Mumbai, We were exhausted from a year full of travel and wanted this trip to end as soon as possible. However, this one was tricky. We could not end this trip abruptly because the sole reason for our travel to Mumbai was my wife’s very crucial US visa appointment.
Those who have been through it know how stressful it gets for someone applying for a US visa, You have to have everything right.
you plan your hotel stays very near to the US consulate because you do not want to take any chances. Such was the case with us.
If you have been through it, you know how hard it is to get a good hotel near the Mumbai US consulate, and How expensive those good hotels near the office are.
After much research, we booked a decent-looking hotel, which claimed to be a 3-star like, and were expecting that it would be our much-needed break for me and my wife before our final quest (The US visa Interview).
Alas, when we finally reached our booked hotel, We were in for a very sad surprise as the hotel was located in a very shady locality and was nowhere safe for a solo female traveller. Thankfully we were two people, and yet I personally did not feel very safe and peaceful staying in the hotel.
However, this story isn’t about the 3-star-like hotel and our utterly disappointing experience, but it is about our pursuit of a better hotel and how we almost got scammed when we fell for the brand name.
After our check-in, me and my wife decided we have our lunch by getting out of the hotel and then we kept looking for alternatives.
So we had our lunch at The Tanjore Tiffin Room, and their food put us at some ease but the idea of going back to our hotel was still scaring us.
Hence, After finishing up our lunch, we came back to our hotel with a lot of courage and started looking for hotels nearby. As I wrote earlier, We wanted a hotel in the same vicinity to avoid any unexpected traffic the next morning for the appointment.
While looking for hotels or Google Maps with nearby filters, We came across this listing of the hotel from a well-renowned Indian Hotel chain.
We looked at the listing and in our desperation we opened the website that was listed on the Google listing (The link has been now updated and corrected by the Hotels group and Google Maps but to make a point I am listing the link that was added by the scammer back in the month of September)
On the listing, There was a website link in the listing that contained a number and a contact on a WhatsApp link on the website.
Malicious Link, Do not click or call.
I was using my phone to search the hotel and in my exhausted and desperate state, I did not think much and decided to give a call to the provided number.
The call was picked and the person on the other side claimed to be a manager of the respective hotel he asked us for UPI the booking amount to confirm the hotel booking.
I got a bit suspicious, But it’s not the first time I have been asked to make a UPI payment to confirm a booking for a hotel, Many of the local hotels ask for a token amount to confirm the booking but this one was strange Because this guy was asking for the full amount in advance and when I said that I will make a token amount and rest I can pay when I reach to the hotel.
On saying that, the guy got defensive and started saying things like, I will not be allowed inside the hotel gate unless I have a confirmed booking.
This made me more suspicious and then I told the guy on the other side that i was at the hotel gate and I would be entering the lobby and no one was stopping me, On hearing this he disconnected the call.
After this close save, We decided to not continue our booking from that Hotel.
After this incident, we finally made our booking at Radisson Hotel Group, Radisson Blu, Near the Mumbai airport. Which did add a bit of travel time to our next-day plan, However in exchange for that we got a nice and comfortable stay and Peace of mind.
Now coming back to the incident, Once me and my wife checked into the new hotel and settled there, I decided to start digging more into the whole thing.
Here are the few things I have unearthed.
On looking at the 1-star rated reviews of the hotel, I found out that the listing has been hijacked for quite some time and many ppl have been scammed. Yet the said Hotel Management could not do much about it for a very long time. Given the kind of resources they have at their disposal, they can do much more.
Another thing I found that this scam is very widespread and on doing a reverse DNS look up I found out that they have claimed more such domains to scam people. Some of them I am listing below.
DO NOT CLICK THE BELOW LINKS
Obviously, they keep changing their domain names and their target hotels.
At the end of it, it was a good learning and something I wanted to share with the people in my network, In order to raise awareness.
While I am publishing this, my wife is on her trip to the US and will be travelling back to India as her visa got approved.
Thanks for reading.
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