How to avoid becoming a victim of a fraud

Fraudsters will try anything, so when you’re working away it’s important to be aware and alert. Here's how travellers and delegates can avoid common scams.

In the not so distant past, travellers wouldn’t have thought twice about handing over a credit card to a waiter in a restaurant, only to have them disappear with it for five minutes. These days, you expect to be given a handheld card payment machine so that you can make the transaction yourself, at the table. The card should never leave your sight and you worry (don’t you?) if it does.

Things have changed and with fraudsters becoming increasingly cunning, people need to be more prepared.

A common scam targeting hotel guests

Typically, when travellers arrive at a hotel to check in, they provide a credit or debit card to guarantee the payment of any incidental costs not included in the room rate. This is completely normal and travellers shouldn’t ordinarily worry about this.

But, fraudsters are always looking for clever ways to dupe people into giving them personal and payment information and one of their latest tricks is explained in the scenario below:

You check-in to your hotel and provide card details for any extra charges during your stay. When you’re in your room you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from the hotel reception team. The individual tells you that there was a problem with your card details and asks you to confirm your card number and three-digit security code from the reverse side of the card. As a helpful traveller, you oblige the request. But, you’ve just given your card details to a total stranger who called the hotel and used various trickery to get their call put through to any guest room.

How can travellers avoid becoming a victim?

If this happens to you, tell the caller you’ll pop down to reception to sort out the problem face-to-face. Properties need and want to know if their hotel and guests are being targeted by fraudsters so inform the reception team what has happened. Even if the request turns into a demand for your card details, some fraudsters can be very persuasive – don’t give in.

You may be overseas where there’s a language barrier, or you assume it's local culture to share details over the telephone. Again, don’t give in.

Never give your card details over the phone unless you initiated the call and you are paying for goods or services which you have already received, or which you are confident and trust you will receive.

Generally, I'd advise people to query something if it doesn’t feel right. This applies particularly to this type of scam. Ask yourself: “Is the request reasonable? Have I ever had this sort of request before?"

What else can you do to prevent fraud and stay safe online?

  • Don’t disclose more than you need to.

  • When paying online or filling in personal information on an online form, make sure the website has a padlock symbol to the left of the web address. This shows the website is secure.

  • Avoid public and unsecured WiFi, which hackers are able to gain sensitive information from.

  • Ensure all your devices are password protected, and email accounts require a two-step verification process.

  • Turn off Bluetooth when not in use on all devices.

  • If your room has a safe, make sure you use it to store any personal or sensitive information, such as mobile phones, passports, cards, paperwork and laptops.

What should I do if I think I have been scammed?

If you think you may have been scammed, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. These providers will have a 24-hour hotline for cases of suspected fraud.

If you think your online accounts have been accessed or personal data has been hacked, change all of your passwords, ensuring that they are strong and difficult to guess.

TIP: Make your password 15 characters or more, using a mix of characters (such as lower case, upper case and symbols). But hackers are wise to common substitutions – such as H3ll0 instead of Hello – and both are as easy to guess, so random character placement like H#e!l?l0 is more effective.