How accommodation owners can protect themselves against accommodation booking scammers

How accommodation owners can protect themselves against accommodation booking scammers

How accommodation owners can protect themselves against accommodation booking scammers

We deal with establishments who fall prey to scammers more often than we’d like.

We receive many calls from accommodation establishments who are concerned about transactions that just don’t feel right”. There are a number of things to look out for when receiving bookings. Here’s how you can stay safe from being scammed by con artists.

Read on…

Trust your instincts

When a transaction or individual makes you feel uneasy without you being able to put your finger on it, listen to your sixth sense and be careful!

The hot card warning

One of the most important things to look out for is the hot card warning. When processing a credit card transaction and the transaction fails with reason HOT CARD, it means that the card is not legitimate and you cannot proceed to process it.

What is a hot card?

A hot card is a credit card that has been reported by the owner as stolen.

If you receive the hot card error, do not deal with that card and do not accept another card from the person using it. Chances are good that you’re dealing with a fraudster here, and not the cardholder. Should you still be prepared to accept the booking, take cash only. If the guest offers to pay with an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), wait until the money is safely in your account, before you allow the booker into your establishment.

When you encounter a hot card, you can also continue with the booking and then inform the police that there is a possible fraudster on his way to your establishment. The police might be able to arrest the person and stop the fraudulent activity, thereby preventing other establishments and cardholders from being scammed.

The multiple card angle

The modus operandi of some scammers is to clone a list of credit cards and then keep trying until one of them works. When you receive credit card details from booking agents or guests via email or fax, the preferred method of completing the transaction is to send the guests a link so that they can pay online for the booking themselves.

When you need to process a card transaction where the cardholder is not present, and the transaction is declined, do not keep trying with different cards from the same guest. Rather insist on another method of payment or decline the booking request. You should ask the guest to present the card and retry on arrival.

Short notice bookings

Be wary of short notice bookings, especially if made through online booking agents. This, together with some of the other factors mentioned above, may well indicate a possible scamming attempt.

Withdrawal requests

When a guest asks to draw cash against his credit card, even if the credit card is present, please do not adhere to the request.

Why not accommodate a withdrawal request?

Cash withdrawals go against the merchant agreement between Booksure and the bank. It will thus be a violation of the merchant agreement if cash withdrawals should be allowed. When the transaction is questioned and it cannot be proved that the charges were for accommodation, the cardholder’s bank will allow it if the cardholder disputes the transaction and the funds will be claimed back from Booksure (and your establishment) by the cardholder’s bank. The establishment thus also stands the chance to lose the money AGAIN!

Safe refunds

Some guests pay by credit card, arrive at the establishment and then cut their stay short with a family emergency.” They ask for a refund, but not into the credit card they used to make payment with; they want a cash or EFT refund.

Why you shouldn’t refund into a different account

If a dispute should arise on the original transaction, and the refund was done into a different credit card or bank account, then that refund will not be accepted as valid proof that the cardholder was indeed refunded.

Any refunds are strictly to be paid back into the credit card that was used for the original transaction.

EFT payments

Some guests may claim to have made an electronic payment, and then fax or email proof of payment that is not legitimate. With the age of Photoshop and other software it is rather easy to fabricate proof of payment without the payment actually being made.

The only reliable proof of payment is the difference in your bank balance. Be sure to never accept faxed or emailed proof of payment in good faith without making sure that the funds have cleared in your bank account.

Safeguarding yourself against credit card fraud

Here are a number of ways you can protect yourself against credit card fraud…

Verify the card owner

Make sure that your guest is who he says. Some scammers send through false copies of IDs or other identification documentation. Try to verify the cardholder by matching the name on the credit card to the cardholder’s original identity document or passport.

Keep sufficient documentation on record

Whenever you do process a transaction online which does not pass through 3D Secure, please ensure that you acquire the following information and keep it on record for at least 24 months after the transaction:

  • Booksure receipt signed by the cardholder (not necessarily the guest)
  • Clear imprint of the card made on the Booksure receipt
  • Where possible, a copy of the cardholder’s ID or passport

Use 3D Secure

Making use of 3D Secure is probably the best way to protect yourself from fraudulent accommodation bookings.

Any VISA and MasterCard online transaction made through the Booksure payment gateway will automatically be directed to 3D Secure, which means that the cardholder will receive a One Time PIN from their bank to their mobile device which they must enter in order to complete the transaction. Any transaction that successfully passed through 3D Secure will be protected against the didn’t do it” disputes and thus also against fraud, as a fraudster would not have been able to get his hands on the One Time PIN. Therefore, it is the safest option to send guests a quote or payment link to pay online, rather than accepting credit card details and attempting the payment yourself.

Please note that American Express and Diners Club do not yet participate in the 3D Secure programme.

You can read more about 3D Secure by clicking here.

Utilising the breakage deposit safely

Many establishment owners find it necessary to take a breakage deposit when accepting a booking. This deposit is then refunded after the guest has departed without destroying or removing anything. It might, however, happen that guests destroy something or help themselves to goods worth more than the breakage deposit taken. You will then have to have a way of recovering these costs without exposing yourself to possible disputes.

Upon check-​in, please ensure that you have sufficient documentation in place that the cardholder can sign, authorising you to recover such charges from his credit card. Also ensure that you make a clear imprint of the card on this authorisation form.

In conclusion

At Booksure do everything in our power to protect our users. This is part of our commitment to accommodation owners using the Booksure system.