Dealing with Fraudulent Bookings

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AtlanticInn-keeper

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Hi all-

My wife and I are the new owners of a B&B on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We are preparing for our 2022 season and looking back on 2021 (our first season) and lessons learned. One of which is how best to verify reservations in an attempt to minimize fraud.

Last year we had a booking for multiple rooms for an extended stay (one week) and they wanted to pay for everything in advance on a credit card. Our initial feeling was....Woohoo!!. However, about a week prior to their anticipated arrival we received notification that this was a fraudulent charge on a stolen card. As such all amounts (revenue) were rolled back out of our account and with that timeline had difficulty getting the rooms re-booked. As luck would have it, we have recently received a similar request for this year (2022); multiple rooms for an extended stay (over 1 week) and wanting to pay in full..in advance.

My question is, how can we best verify that this is a legitimate booking? We have "searched" the individual making the booking and have limited/questionable results. We find inconsistencies in name spellings, addresses, etc. Has anyone experienced anything like this before? How have you handled it? How can you prevent it? I welcome your thoughts/advice. Thank you.
 

gillumhouse

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The number of days and number of rooms is a tip-off that USUALLY, it is fraud. Another favorite is "I want tp pay the entire amount with my credit card (sometimes will want to pay for something else like a rental car)". This one will send or post a large charge and request the change posted to another card and at the end of the "day" it will be a fraud card, money removed from your account PLUS whatever you refunded will be lost money for you. This is another version of the Greek priests.

Look at the TO: in the e-mail. If undisclosed - fraud because it was sent to many locations. Check the grammar and spelling although they are getting better at that as a tip-off. Best to you.
 

AtlanticInn-keeper

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The number of days and number of rooms is a tip-off that USUALLY, it is fraud. Another favorite is "I want tp pay the entire amount with my credit card (sometimes will want to pay for something else like a rental car)". This one will send or post a large charge and request the change posted to another card and at the end of the "day" it will be a fraud card, money removed from your account PLUS whatever you refunded will be lost money for you. This is another version of the Greek priests.

Look at the TO: in the e-mail. If undisclosed - fraud because it was sent to many locations. Check the grammar and spelling although they are getting better at that as a tip-off. Best to you.
 

Morticia

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How the scam usually works is they ask for the money back before you know you’ve been scammed. You refund them and then the actual card holder contacts the credit card company and pulls the same amount back from you. So you’ve now lost the money twice over.

Figure it this way—would you offer to fully pay your vacation in advance? No? Then why would a stranger offer that to you?

Same thing with people who want you to hire a car for them and accept delivery of packages in advance of their arrival.

Best wishes on a great second season!
 

CSMaine

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I agree with the other comments; usually poor grammar and poor spelling, along with a request for several or all rooms for a longer stay. One suggestion is for any reservation change or cancellation is to only apply the refund to the original card charged. Even if a card has been cancelled, the credit card company will refund the card or you can work with them to get the funds back on the right card. We get these scam emails at least two or three times a month.
 

Generic

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Look at the TO: line, are you listed directly, or are you part of a BCC?

Is the booking usual? More than one room? Longer period than a normal stay? Are they giving you a reason that you didn't ask for?

I won't ever take a full pre-paid reservations. We take a deposit. That usually deters them... they want a BIG charge.

Also, the location and bank information can help. You can use a BIN lookup, like Quick BIN Lookup to see what bank it is issued from and the country. Do they match? Does that make sense.

For example a reservation from France with a 525810 BIN doesn't make sense... that's a prepaid Brazilian card and a French address. You can always call the bank and report that it is a code 10 authorization (suspected fraud). In many cases, they will do an address verification or transfer you directly to the issuing bank that can verify address. They will ask you for the address and/or name and will tell you either match or no match. They can't tell you what they have on record, just confirm what you have.

I once had someone try 4 different cards. What he didn't know is that I was calling to get the cards cancelled each time, after I figure out he was a scammer. By the 5th time, he figured that the game was up and moved on... meanwhile, I burnt some of the cards he could have ripped off. They often buy a list of cards from the darkweb and are testing them.
 

Eugee2

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Rather than being so prompt with the refunds when they cancel, it may be appropriate to add a month delay in policies to refund any charges over $500. You’ve certainly got a good reason for the policy.
 

AtlanticInn-keeper

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Many thanks for all of your replies, suggestions and guidance. We will definitely be more diligent in our next season.
 

FHI2426

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It strikes me odd that the card was rejected not at initial booking but much later closer to check in, our credit card processor always rejects at time of booking. We then email/call the people and ask them to fix. If number is non sensical we know it's fraud. Sometimes it's a mistype by the guest ... seems to happen about 80% of the time in booking.com which is a very small % of our bookings. At least it ended up not too bad for you...
 

CoffeeTreks

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I'm with FHI2426. I think it is odd and may be someone who had cold feet about the reservation. If I were you, I would try checking out some online alternative payment methods for you to accept for these larger purchases that would protect you. For example, sending an invoice through paypal (would that work?)...or a link where they can pay directly with their bank account...with a simple note on your website that due to past cancellations, you require payment through XXXX for longterm stays and will email them the link.
 

gillumhouse

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I'm with FHI2426. I think it is odd and may be someone who had cold feet about the reservation. If I were you, I would try checking out some online alternative payment methods for you to accept for these larger purchases that would protect you. For example, sending an invoice through paypal (would that work?)...or a link where they can pay directly with their bank account...with a simple note on your website that due to past cancellations, you require payment through XXXX for longterm stays and will email them the link.

Most reservations like that are fake or scam. Another tip-off I forgot to mention before - when they list the names and ages of everyone in the party.
 

JimBoone

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My wife and I are the new owners of a B&B on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We are preparing for our 2022 season and looking back on 2021 (our first season) and lessons learned. One of which is how best to verify reservations in an attempt to minimize fraud.

Welcome, I'm a tiny motel in the western part of your state, around 30 years of enjoyment thus far, please consider your experience part of your education into innkeeping, I learned most of my lessons the hard way, but all in all we meet a wonderful bunch of people in this business.

Quick question, was this booking from an email or telephone call or online through a system hosted on your own website?

For years we resisted having online booking, felt like we needed the personal connection, friends on this forum encouraged me to set up online and suggested Reservation Key as a program, it works well for me.

I did not lose the personal contact with guests. I charge $10 when a reservation is made, knowing they will lose that much discourages those who would waste your time, yet it is small enough to not discourage those making a real reservation.

Again, welcome, nice bunch of folks on this forum
 

CoralKeeper

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I just want to say thank you to this entire group. You just saved me almost $6k.

We own a B&B in the Caribbean and also offer Private Chef Services island-wide. It's not uncommon for us to get a request to cater a yacht outing, or a private jet taking off at the airport. It's also not uncommon for the intermediary to want to pay in full instead of 3 separate payments (one to hold the date, one 2 weeks prior to cover food cost "just in case" and one the day of). But this time, my intuition told me something was off (for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with).

So I kept asking for more details, and they kept being provided. I was still uncomfortable.

It finally got to the point where I was feeling like I was discriminating based on poor grammar with someone for whom English was not their first language (also not uncommon here), and I finally issued the invoice from my secure virtual credit card processor. And simultaneously this inquiry from the Outer Banks B&B owner popped up in my email box. I read the response from Morticia about how the scam works, and IMMEDIATELY cancelled the invoice. I issued my apologies to my contract client (using my credit card processor as the reason for "our combined safety and security") with a list of additional details needed to proceed (including the name of the yacht charter and the captain's contact information). I haven't heard from the individual since.

What's scary is how personalized this particular exchange was. I definitely was not part of a mass emailing. I was specifically targeted.

A huge thanks to this group for:
a) Sharing
b) Being Awesome B&B Owners, and
c) Confirming that I need to trust my gut

Best wishes to all!
 

GoodScout

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The sad news is the further down the path you go, the more likely you are to see more of it.
Grifters share info, and if you're someone who's been pegged as a mark or a likely mark, more will gravitate toward you. Good luck!
 

Generic

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We regularly tell anyone trying to reserve in email that they must reserve online via our reservation system. That usually ends it. I had one this week send me a request to pay by cheque. I declined, told them to reserve via the website. They emailed back with detailed information on the cheque they wanted to send me. I replied simply "NO"

I don't take cheques, ever. Not bank cheques, not money orders, not anything but cash or credit cards. For credit cards, the remaining amount must be paid when present, with your chip card. It ends the nonsense.
 

royden

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We get this kind of attempted scam here in the U.K. as well. The same warning signs give it away - bad English, long stay, several rooms, maybe looking for extras, asking if alternative dates are free if the requested dates are booked (when does anyone ask that?) and the exact amount wanted for upfront payment. A booking email like no others that you've ever had before, when you've seen and recognized one you'll never have any problem. Of course, they tended to stop during restrictions and lockdowns!
 

theinnonthird

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We regularly tell anyone trying to reserve in email that they must reserve online via our reservation system. That usually ends it. I had one this week send me a request to pay by cheque. I declined, told them to reserve via the website. They emailed back with detailed information on the cheque they wanted to send me. I replied simply "NO"

I don't take cheques, ever. Not bank cheques, not money orders, not anything but cash or credit cards. For credit cards, the remaining amount must be paid when present, with your chip card. It ends the nonsense.

We handle it the same way. These requests ALWAYS, without fail, come via email. It is ALWAYS, without fail, several rooms for at least 5 nights. The request to pay up front and sometimes for extras that we should please arrange for them, typically come in follow-up emails which we no longer even receive BECAUSE I direct them immediately to our website for pricing and booking. I don't even bother quoting rates. If they want to know/book, go through my website.
 

bluedragonflyinn

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Thank you all so very much for posting your experiences on this topic. I've had a couple of email scams come through, but nothing as egregious as some of you have had to deal with. All great points and insight into dealing with the less honest among us. Cheers to a great 2022!
 
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We get this as well. You can tell they use BCC which is blind carbon copy. They email a bunch of hotels fishing for a response. I ignore them and never hear from them again.

We did get some fraud through booking.com. We now pre authorize bookings and that's ended those.
 
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