Is your hotel room safe from phone scams?

It’s late at night and you’re asleep in a hotel room when you’re awakened by the room’s telephone. The caller identifies himself as the hotel manager and says he needs to get your credit card information again because of a hotel computer problem. Phone scams are the last thing on your mind.

What would you do if this happened to you?

That’s the call Pallavi Kumar got during a recent stay at a Hyatt hotel in New York. What happened to her and the way she handled it serve as an important warning about a recurrent scam that targets travelers; you have to keep your guard up, even in your hotel room.

It was just before midnight when the phone rang. She was initially disoriented when she answered the call and tried to process what she was hearing.

As I started to wake up, I asked why they needed the credit card now in the middle of the night.
He said it was because the computer resets at midnight. He said I could go down to the front desk and take care of it but there was quite a line so it would be quicker to do it over the phone.
I said this is all very strange. He said I was the only one that had a problem with it and that they were offering 25 percent off the room rate for the inconvenience. He was insistent that I take care of it.

Kumar was suspicious, so she used her cell phone to call the hotel’s main number. By the time she was connected to the front desk, the caller had hung up. The front desk worker told her that no one from the hotel staff had placed such a call and indicated that other guests had inquired about similar calls.

After a sleepless night, Kumar tried to follow up with the hotel staff about their security procedures but wasn’t satisfied with the response. Their assumption was that the call had been placed by someone staying in another room.
Kumar is worried that it might have been a security lapse with an outside call, a phone system hack or even, as she put it, “an inside job.”

The hotel staff believe otherwise. A Hyatt risk management specialist told her a few days later that the call was made by a guest staying at the hotel and that it “happens everywhere.”

In my experience, good hotels have a basic phone security procedure for dealing with incoming calls. If an outside caller asks to be connected to a specific room number, the operator will first ask for the name of the guest. On the other hand, someone who is already staying there can generally use a room phone to directly dial any other room.

What Kumar experienced is an old and common scam. A quick online search on the phrase “hotel room call scams” will lead you to many stories recounting calls that sound almost identical to the one Kumar got. They tend to come late at night when the victims are sleeping and when scammers count on victims not wanting to get dressed to go to the front desk.

If you get a call like that, assume it’s bogus. Hotel staff will not call you and ask for your credit card information on the phone. Instead of giving out your credit card number, tell the caller you will go to the front desk to take care of it. Or, if you’re in doubt, do what Kumar did and use your cell phone to call the hotel’s main number. Don’t fall for the offer of a discount for taking care of it on the phone.

We tend to think of phishing scams as coming via email. But con artists don’t need to be technical whizzes to do their phishing by phone. There are phone scams where the caller claims to be from the target’s credit card issuer or bank and needs to verify a credit card or bank account number.

Neither the hotel, nor the bank, nor the credit card company will call you and ask you to give them your credit card number. Protect yourself by starting with the assumption that such a call is a scam.

Those aren’t the only phone scams that might target you. In my next story I’ll describe some others, including one that cost a woman more than $4,000.

After her stay, Kumar received a follow-up note from the hotel’s actual general manager.

I completely understand how being contacted by someone requesting personal information can be very alarming. There are scammers out there who try and contact guest rooms in hotels to conduct fraud.
We would never contact our guests for any personal information over the phone. We would always ask the guest to come to the front desk. When we were made aware of these calls during the overnight hours we had our phone company complete some testing to ensure that our phone lines were working accurately.
We unfortunately cannot control the scammers from trying to call rooms but please know that should this occur in the future at our hotel or any other hotel, please do not give any personal information.

The hotel manager put 15,000 points into her Hyatt loyalty program account. But that was by way of apology for the delay in responding caused by being out of the office, not for any security lapse on the hotel’s part.

Kumar wanted us to write about this experience as a warning to other travelers.

“I consider myself a savvy traveler but I almost fell for it,” she says. “I am blaming the fact that I was disoriented from sleeping but still feel pretty stupid. It was nice of them to give me 15,000 points though I remain unsatisfied with their overall response.”

Is 15,000 Hyatt points enough compensation?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.