SOME OF THE perils of travel can happen before the journey even begins. Online travel scams remain prevalent and often target travelers over 50 years old, but a campaign by the American Hotel Lodging Association aims to prepare them to avoid those traps.
In December, AHLA and AARP launched a coordinated campaign between AHLA’s Search Smarter program and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. It included several initiatives, such as promoting the associations’ consumer holiday travel guide on social media that provides tips on safely booking travel online.
Those tips include:
- Book on the official website of a hotel or use a reputable third-party resource.
- Carefully check a travel website’s URL. Scam sites may use “domain spoofing” tricks such as an extra letter in the address.
- Call the hotel to confirm your reservation after booking on a third-party website. If they don’t have a record of your booking, that may signal a problem.
- Be leery of pressure tactics, such as “Only 2 rooms left. Book now!” Third-party sites do not have access to a hotel’s inventory.
A previous AHLA study found that 23 percent of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online. That led to $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions in 2018.
Baby boomers expected to spend $6,600 on travel in 2019, according to an AARP survey, and 35 percent said that was an increase over 2018.
“False and misleading websites all too often deceive consumers as they plan their travel,” said AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers. “Together with AARP, our efforts will empower [travelers over 50] to search smarter and avoid travel scams.”
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, launched in 2013, allows consumers to sign up for alert emails about potential scams. It also includes a helpline, 877-908-3360, to speak with staff and volunteers trained in fraud counseling, as well as its podcast series “The Perfect Scam.”
“Through the AARP Fraud Watch Network, we work to educate consumers about the scams and fraud that claim billions of dollars each year,” said AARP’s Director of Fraud Prevention Programs Kathy Stokes.