Accommodation scam affects consumers and businesses

Accommodation providers in Western Australia are being targeted by scammers who make bookings using a stolen credit card, before cancelling with a sob story and requesting a refund be paid into a bank account.

But it’s not just businesses affected by this scam, as commissioner for consumer protection Anne Driscoll explains, “A consumer reported to WA ScamNet that she had been wrongly charged by a hotel in New South Wales for catering services – it would appear her credit card was used by scammers who cancelled the booking and got the service-provider to put an urgent refund into a bank account rather than back on to the card.

“This shows that consumers need to keep a close eye on their credit card statements and seek charge backs from their financial institution for any fraudulent transactions.

“Meanwhile accommodation providers and similar businesses need to be aware that scammers are operating in this way and that getting caught up in this sort of scam will result in monetary loss for the business. The best advice is to only refund money on to the credit card or into the bank account used to make a booking or purchase.”

The commissioner said this was a new variation of a previous scam that aimed to trick accommodation providers and had also targeted vehicle repair businesses.

“Previously we have seen bookings made by email or phone for accommodation and a payment exceeding the total bill paid via cheque or credit card. The scammer then requests a refund of the overpaid amount before the cheque bounces or credit card payment is reversed because it was a fraudulent transaction.”

The commissioner added that businesses also need to be mindful of their computer systems being intercepted and keep firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware up-to-date.

“Earlier this year a company in the Midwest received a ransom message from hackers to say the company’s computer had been frozen and files encrypted, along with instructions on how to pay for the unlocking of the data. The business refused to cooperate with the scammers and instead had to foot the $8000 bill for a local computer technician to fix the problem. Valuable sales and trading data was also lost because it hadn’t been backed up recently.”

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