How to Avoid Summer Hotel Booking Scams

If you're planning a last minute family getaway for the summer, be careful before you book online.

New research shows consumers spent more than $5 billion last year in fraudulent and misleading hotel bookings.

Nearly one in four people say they've been misled by third-party travel companies.

You've seen the messages...

"Other people are looking at this hotel right now."

"Only two rooms left!"

Brian Crawford with the American Hotel and Lodging Association has a warning for you: Don't fall for it.

"Those are marketing gimmicks to try and draw the consumer in and pressure them to book immediately," he said.

There are more than 7,000 online re-sellers of hotel rooms.

"Most of those are good faith actors who are not deceiving or misleading the consumer. But unfortunately there are some that will take your information and use it inappropriately," Crawford said. 

Here are four things you need to know to protect your next trip:

-Look before you book. Pay special attention to the URL of the web site.

"The URLs that you speak of will have the keyword of the hotel that you're looking for but then will have additional words on there," Crawford said.

-Take advantage of loyalty programs.

"Loyalty programs and affinity programs offered by many of our brands provide you with freebies. Free Wi-Fi, free water, best rate available," he explained.

-Ask the right questions before providing credit card information.

"Call the property. Make sure you speak to somebody on the phone and say 'are you the actual property?' Talk to them about cancellation policies so you know what you're signing up for," Crawford said.

-Book directly with the hotel or a trusted travel agent.

"The online travel companies are in a transaction business. Once they get your credit card they're out of the equation."

That means if there's an issue when you show up at the hotel, you may be out of luck.

If you think you've been tricked into a fraudulent booking, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission here.

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