Australians have reported losing more than $220,000 in Booking.com scams in just one year amid a huge spike in cases.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch website received 363 reports of scams mentioning Booking.com last year, a whopping 585 percent increase on the year prior.
In 2022, a significantly lesser 53 reports were made.
The data comes on the back of a Queenslander sharing her story with the ABC, who had about $16,300 spent on her cards after scammers stole her details.
The woman, Robyn, had been contacted by the scammers through Booking.com, pretending to be a hotel she had an upcoming booking at, needing to confirm payment details.
She was eventually contacted by a legitimate representative of the hotel but it was too late.
“The hotel said that their system through Booking.com had been basically hijacked,” she told ABC. “They could see me talking to people, but it wasn’t them.
“They said they couldn’t get into the system to tell me to stop talking to them.”
Fortunately, her bank later returned the funds that were spent on her cards.
Booking.com said it was aware of “a number of” accommodation partners on the platform that had been sent phishing emails, “with the intent of taking over their local computer systems with malware.”
“In some cases this has led to unauthorized access of their Booking.com account, which enables these fraudsters to temporarily impersonate the accommodation and communicate with guests via email or messages,” a statement provided to news.com.au said.
“It’s important to highlight that Booking.com’s back-end systems and infrastructure have not been breached, and the number of accommodations impacted are a small fraction of those on our platform.”
The company said it had put new measures and alerts in place to update and protect its customers and accommodation partners.
“If a customer ever has any concerns about a payment message, we encourage them to first carefully check the payment policy details outlined on the property listing page and in their booking confirmation,” a spokesperson advised.
“Customers are also encouraged to report any suspicious messages to us via our customer service team, or by clicking on ‘report an issue’, which is included in the chat function. “Within each individual booking we also have guidance for customers on how to avoid suspicious activity. As a rule, no legitimate transaction will ever require a customer to share sensitive information like credit card details via email, chat messages, text messages (including WhatsApp) or on the phone.”
The ACCC advises Booking.com users to do the following to protect themselves against these scams.
- Independently verify any email that contains a link and/or attachment, that asks you to sign in or to enter personal or financial information.
- Contact the organization on a phone number that you have located yourself, never one provided in an email or text.
- Use the organizations app to securely access your account and verify messages and implement two factor authentication for added security.
- Be aware that Booking.com customer service representatives won’t ask you to provide your account password or financial information such as a credit card over the phone.