AH&LA, Better Business Bureau partner to combat fake booking sites

The best way to beat scammers is through education, and travelers have a lot to learn

The American Hotel & Lodging Association is partnering with the Better Business Bureau to educate consumers about online booking scams. According to the AH&LA, these online booking scams are becoming more prevalent, with the advocacy group claiming last year alone saw fake websites capture roughly 55 million hotel bookings. These bookings were picked up by third-party operators, and resulted in nearly $4 billion in misleading bookings.

As part of the partnership, the AH&LA and the BBB formulated a tips page on the BBB website as well as social media campaigns, a podcast, infographic materials and blog posts designed to educate consumers on how to “search smarter” when booking stays online. The AH&LA is also providing customers with information on how to avoid fake booking sites on its own website, which can be found here.

“We are very excited to partner with the Better Business Bureau to provide travelers with the information and tools they need to avoid falling prey to these harmful practices,” Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the AH&LA, said in a statement. “As the ease of online booking facilitates more travel, consumers need to know how to spot rogue sites and make informed decisions to avoid bad bookings. It’s always safest to book directly with the hotel to ensure consumers get what they want and need out of their vacation or business travel experience.”

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“CBBB welcomes AHLA to our National Partner program and particularly as a partner in fighting scams,” Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement. “Our recent BBB Scam Risk Report found that travel scams are one of the riskiest scams for older consumers ages 55 and up, and for military consumers. Travel and vacation scam victims lose an average of $847, compared to $274 overall, so it’s a costly and concerning issue. We are pleased to partner with AHLA and its members to help educate consumers on the best ways to avoid travel scams.”

The Federal Trade Commission began targeting fake booking sites in 2015 at a time when their activity began to ramp up and public awareness started to grow. Hotels are adept at juggling traveler complaints and turning them into a positive, but the real danger posed by these fake booking sites is their ability to damage consumer confidence and reduce traveler trust in direct bookings. In 2014, the AH&LA estimated fake bookings were costing the industry roughly $220 million, and the organization’s current estimate of $4 billion shows that these sites are only becoming more effective, if anything.