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Hotel industry, AARP join to help protect seniors from travel scams


Joint effort will help consumers identify online booking scams and search smarter.

WASHINGTON – As Americans book last-minute holiday travel and begin contemplating summer trips, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and AARP announced a coordinated campaign aimed at educating senior travelers to avoid travel scams. This collaboration aligns with both AHLA’s Search Smarter campaign and the AARP Fraud Watch Network, initiatives designed to help consumers avoid falling victim to scams and fraud. 

According to AHLA research, online booking scams and dishonest marketing practices by fraudulent and misleading travel websites continue to deceive and confuse consumers. Among the findings, 23 percent of consumers report being misled by third-party traveler resellers on the phone or online, which amounted to $5.7 billion in fraudulent and misleading hotel booking transactions in 2018 alone.

Seniors are hardly immune to fraudulent online travel bookings, with older Americans representing a large segment of the leisure travel population. According to AARP polling, boomers anticipate spending more than $6,600 on travel in 2019, and more than a third (35%) of Boomers surveyed say that’s more than they spent in 2018. The amount of money that this population spends on travel makes them a prime target for travel scammers.

“We’re thrilled to be working with AARP,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “False and misleading websites all too often deceive consumers as they plan their travel. Together with AARP, our efforts will empower the 50+ to search smarter and avoid travel scams.”

“Through the AARP Fraud Watch Network, we work to educate consumers about the scams and fraud that claim billions of dollars each year,” said Kathy Stokes, Director of Fraud Prevention Programs. “We are excited to join AHLA in our shared mission to protect consumers from fraud and look forward to an ongoing collaboration.”   

The AHLA and AARP campaign will include a series of initiatives during the month of December, including a a joint social media campaign to promote a consumer holiday travel guide. The guide features tips and resources for consumers to consider as they travel this holiday season.

Both AHLA’s Search Smarter campaign and the AARP Fraud Watch Network offer consumers tips to protect them from bad actor websites. These tips include:

  • Book on the official website of a hotel or use a reputable third-party resource.
  • Carefully check a travel website’s URL. Scam sites may use “domain spoofing” tricks such as an extra letter in the address.
  • Call the hotel to confirm your reservation after booking on a third-party website. If they don’t have a record of your booking, that may signal a problem.

Be leery of pressure tactics (e.g., “Only 2 rooms left. Book now!”). Third-party sites do not have access to a hotel’s inventory.

A full listing of consumer guidance can be found on AHLA’s Search Smarter website, and the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

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