Puri’s Hospitality Hijack: Protecting Yourself Against the Surge in Online Booking Scams

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In recent months, a disturbing trend has emerged in the realm of online hotel reservations, particularly affecting tourists from West Bengal. A recent report sheds light on the unfortunate experiences of around 100 individuals who fell victim to cunning online scammers while attempting to secure accommodations in the picturesque town of Puri over the last six months.

The perpetrators of these scams employed a variety of deceptive tactics, creating fake websites and booking apps under the names of legitimate hotels in Puri. Promising irresistible discounts on travel packages and sightseeing, they lured unsuspecting tourists into a web of deceit. In some instances, these fraudsters even went so far as to fabricate entire hotel listings for establishments that did not exist.

The heart of the scam lay in the seemingly unbeatable prices offered by the fraudsters, ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 for rooms that would typically cost between Rs 4,000 and Rs 10,000 per day in legitimate sea-view hotels. The allure of these steal deals proved too tempting for many tourists from West Bengal, leading to significant financial losses and dashed vacation plans.

The Puri police have been proactive in addressing this issue, taking steps to educate both hotel owners and tourists on safeguarding themselves against online scams and cyber threats.

To shield yourself from falling prey to these scams, here are some crucial precautions to take:

  • Refine Your Online Search: Exercise caution when searching for hotels online and avoid generic terms like “hotel deals,” which often lead to sponsored or dubious results.
  • Direct Booking Through Hotel Websites: Whenever possible, book directly through the official websites of hotels. Double-check the URL for accuracy and ensure it begins with “https” for a secure connection.
  • Consider Loyalty Programs: Explore loyalty programs offered by reputable hotel brands, as they may provide opportunities for free stays and additional perks.
  • Trusted Third-Party Booking Sites: If using third-party booking sites, opt for well-known and trusted platforms. However, if the hotel offers a better rate, consider booking directly to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • Research and Reviews: Thoroughly research hotels and booking sites on reliable platforms for ratings, reviews, and any customer complaints.
  • Understand Policies: Familiarize yourself with the cancellation and refund policies of the hotel before providing your credit card information.
  • Confirmation with the Hotel: A few weeks before your stay, contact the hotel directly to confirm your reservation, rates, and check-in details.

By adopting these precautions, travellers can fortify themselves against the growing threat of online hotel booking scams and ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation experience. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and don’t let scammers turn your dream holiday into a nightmare.

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