Hospitality industry warned against online booking scams!

Has someone succeeded in defrauding your restaurant, guesthouse or hotel? There are many fraudsters trying to defraud through online payments and pre-bookings. We would like to share two emails sent to the Arrive Alive website:

Example 1

“My name is Peter.A.Purdon from M&G Investment International. I want to know if there is any availability for 5 guests coming for Business meeting that needs rooms, apartments services if possible. They are coming for visit in your city. If there is availability, kindly let me know about the dates and the quotes.

They are looking forward to Arrive on 20th of October 2011. The ONLY mode Of Payment is :Visa , Master or Amex Card.

Write me immediately with an update on the list of all the services you can offer and available at that time. Call me anytime.

Director: Peter.A.Purdon

M & G International Investments UK

233 Wale Street, London EC2V 7HN

Phone: + (44) 704-5768990

Example 2:

“My name is Robert Smith I will like you to offer 4 of my Clients with Accommodation at your Place and Meanwhile their bookings details listed below

ROOM TYPE:4 Standard Rooms

Check In: 10Th /11/ 2011

Check Out:16Th /11/ 2011

Duration Of Stay 6 Nights

GUEST NAMES:

JAMES/COLLINS/MR

LONGMAN/CASTROL/MR

RICHARDS/EWARDS/MR

GRACE/HAMMER/MRS

Kindly let me know the total cost for the 4rooms rooms for 6 nights and full Payment would be made in advance via credit cards (MASTER CARDS or VISA CARDS).

I await your soonest reply and look forward to building an strong business relationship with you.

Sincere Regards,

Robert Smith”

By typing the address into Google, I managed to find more on these online booking scams on this page “Online scam against restaurant owners”

Method of fraudulent booking

A visitor to the above website provided the following method:

“How it works is they ask you to put a deposit on their credit card through “your restaurant”. They ask that you charge the credit card $9000 but then take $7000 and give it to a local car company. Once you process it you will be contacted by your bank and YOU become liable for the total $9000 that is charged to the card as it is a stolen credit card and the transaction will be reversed!”

Insurance might not cover loss/ damage from these fraudulent transactions

I raised this with OUTsurance and enquired whether insurance would cover such losses. I received the following response:

“We do not offer any product to cover losses such as these and believe the responsibility relies on the person/business involved to ensure they are participating in valid transactions prior to making any payment.”

Does OUTsurance alert clients to these and other scams as they become known?

“This is not something we have done and because it is often difficult to differentiate between valid threats and spam mails, it is not an option we will presently be involved in.”

How can owners/managers of hospitality establishments protect themselves?

I discussed this with Anthony Lamont Smith, Revenue & Yield Manager at the Balalaika in Sandton, Johannesburg. He emphasized the importance of not operating in isolation but also sharing insights with others in the industry.

In Sandton the managers of several departments in hotels meet regularly to discuss experiences and risks. These include revenue managers, food and beverage managers, security etc. This allows them to alert one another to specific incidents and trends in criminal activity, bad payers, bad behaviour etc.

We would like to urge managers and owners in the hospitality industry to join in the battle against fraud and to share their experiences with others who might fall victim to these scammers!

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