9/28/2020

Hotel Credit Card Fraud

The following incident just occurred to a friend of ours staying at a Dayton House resort in Myrtle Beach. It was a last-minute girl’s weekend at the beach. Our friend called the hotel, made a reservation, provided a debit card, and headed to the beach. Everything was normal with check-in and she got to the oceanfront room booked. Shortly after check-in, she received a phone call claiming that the front desk had an issue with the card provided, and they needed to run her card again. Without thinking, our friend gave them the card number over the phone. Luckily her traveling companion thought it might be a good idea to get an updated receipt from the front desk. At the front desk, they were told they did call her room. The desk agent then confirmed this was a known scam that was hitting area hotels. When asked why she did not warn them at check-in, the desk agent said it’s something that just happens, and they are not responsible. This was on a Sunday, so she was limited to locking her account. She then had to take time out of her vacation to visit a local branch to request a new card.

It is true that this happens regularly, and it is not normally the fault of the hotel. However, the hotel was aware of the problem. This is no different than signage placed in the parking decks to warn guests to lock doors, removal valuables, and that the hotel is not responsible for the loss. Signage is there to limit liability for the hotel and to provide a basic warning. So, what is the liability for attempted fraud in the hotel's name, if the hotel is aware of the issue? It is a good idea to check the state Attorney Generals' consumer for guidance. Per the consumer protection section of www.findlaw.com:

Generally, a hotel will not be responsible for crimes committed on or near the hotel’s premises. The exception to this is if the hotel should have anticipated the crime and failed to prevent it. A common example of this would be if the hotel were located in a high crime area, but didn’t put any safeguards in place (such as locked windows and bright lighting). Hotels must also warn of any known criminal problems around the hotel.

In this case, the hotel staff confirmed that this was a known issue, and confirmed they failed to notify the guest at check-in, but felt they were not responsible. To confirm if this was a property management issues or just the fault of a single employee, we checked the hotel's safety tips, and a generic comment is made about people physically attempting to access the room, but it does not mention any attempts to collect payment in the hotel's name.


To avoid a similar issue, we recommend the following tips:

  • If you received any call after checking into a hotel claiming that there is an issue with your card. Always return to the front desk.
  • If the person pushes back or threatens you, let them know that you provided a credit card to check-in, and will settle issues at check out.
  • Although convenient, avoid giving credit cards over the phone. If the company you’re working with has a website, use that as an option, or just book a room. If the hotel does not have online booking, use a third-party website as an alternative.
  • If you prefer paying at the hotel, websites like Booking.com, hotels.com, and Travelocity.com offer options for paying at the hotel instead of prepaying for the booking.
  • If you do must give a hotel a credit card over the phone to book, I recommend using a prepaid card. You can request one from your bank or current credit card company. The prepaid card is issued in your name, offer cash back, travel, or rewards points, and provides a buffer between you and your backing information.


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