FTC warns consumers about bogus hotel booking sites
Educational materials offer tips to avoid being scammed
PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Following a Call Christina investigation and pressure to investigate from more than two dozen lawmakers, The Florida Trade Commission is issuing educational materials to consumers to warn them about fake hotel booking sites.
"I can assure you that we will carefully consider the information you provided in determining whether enforcement or other action is appropriate," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez wrote in part to the lawmakers. "Moreover, we intend to prepare consumer education materials cautioning consumers about third-party websites that may deceptively mimic hotel websites."
A recent RetailMeNot.com and Omnibus survey found that due to the convenience of around-the-clock booking and the ability to easily shop for travel deals, close to three in five Americans use travel websites to book their travel.
While consumers are trying to score a deal, travel experts tell Local 10 News that scammers are piggybacking off the popularity of online booking sites by setting up fake websites.
"Unfortunately, the websites go up and come down so quickly that the consumer has no idea that they have been scammed until they show up at the hotel," said Heidi Dennis, general manager of the Atlantic Hotel and Spa on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
"This has been an ongoing problem, just talking to other hoteliers," she said.
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 2.5 million hotel reservations were made nationwide through misleading booking websites.
To avoid being scammed, the FTC advises consumers to "take the time to look for signs that you might be on a third-party site, like another company's logo," and "find the hotel phone number yourself, rather than rely on what's listed on the site."
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