The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) is worried about the increase in fraudulent hotel room bookings made online and the prevalence of social media campaigns designed to tarnish the reputations of certain hospitality companies.
According to the findings of the Association, cybercriminals have been putting up phoney hotel websites on major search engines in an effort to trick naïve clients into paying for reservations at these establishments. In order to gain more views and followers, some social media influencers have been making phoney videos or posting fake reviews of Association member businesses.
In light of the alarming frequency with which such incidents have occurred over the past year, HRAWI intends to raise the matter with relevant government officials and law enforcement agencies. It also plans to contact online platforms that knowingly enable fraudsters to defraud consumers and damage brand reputations in an effort to get them to tighten up on the content provided by users.
The problem of fraudulent hotel and restaurant booking websites created by cybercriminals is a major issue for the hospitality industry. Customers suffer financial losses as a result of these types of incidents, and the hospitality industry suffers as a whole because of the negative publicity. Customers making reservations online are urged to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities. Pradeep Shetty, President of HRAWI, has stated that the organisation will seek the government to enact laws protecting citizens and commercial firms from social media influencers who use their audience to extort legitimate businesses.
HRAWI has issued a stern condemnation of these criminal operations and asked customers to exercise caution while making reservations via the Internet. Customers should only make reservations through official hotel and restaurant websites and social media pages, as well as report any suspicious behaviour to the proper authorities, as recommended by the Association.
We will notify law enforcement of specific incidents so that crooks operating online can be tracked down and punished. We will also escalate the issue by addressing it with the web services that enable these anti-social actors to operate freely. Shetty concludes that HRAWI would continue to work towards establishing a safe and secure environment for consumers and companies as part of its mission to promote and safeguard the interests of the hotel and restaurant industry.
In Case 1, cybercriminals posed as the hotels The UniContinental, Hotel Samrat, and Hotel Singhs International in Khar by posting their phone numbers on the hotels’ Google webpages. The con artists enticed potential victims into paying a 50% deposit on rooms by promising them a free stay. In the 48 hours it took for Google to remove the photos after receiving complaints, the fraudster uploaded new ones. Visitors felt the hotels should have done more to address the issue by removing the photos from their websites. The property owner, Paramjit Ghai, filed a report of cybercrime with the police in Khar.
Scenario 2: Hotel Amigo’s Google Maps account leaked photographs of an unspecified number of hotels and hotel rooms with a variety of mobile phone numbers overlay on the photos. B2B Hospitality, a Delhi-based company, emailed the hotel claiming to have paid Rs.9200/- into an IDFCFirst account in exchange for a room reservation. A receipt from the client’s transaction with ICICI bank was given to the hotel. Although Hotel Amigo does not have a bank account with IDFCFirst, the hotel was listed as the beneficiary on the payment receipt.
After making multiple attempts, the hotel finally received confirmation from IDFCFirst bank that the transaction had indeed taken place on 17.02.23 and that the account in question belonged to an individual rather than a corporation. The bank advised the hotel that NEFT/RTGS transactions are resolved based on account number and IFSC code; and that the account holder’s name is not taken into consideration for settlement, since the receipt indicated ‘Amigo Hotel’ as the recipient rather than the personal name of the account holder. The hotel reported the incident as a cybercrime and warned guests about the fake photographs on their website.