By Scott Thomas
A few weeks ago, at the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII) annual conference in Austin, Texas, we did a presentation called Managing Your Online Reputation. If the ideas expressed there (guests posting video, reviews, photos, etc., on Facebook and other social media sites before even leaving the property) are not enough to motivate you to take some steps toward monitoring what is being said online about your business, perhaps this latest scam will.
We recently received an email from Maine Innkeepers Association, detailing the scam. Unlike the email scams with the groups who want to book a 10 day stay at your property, this one appears on a web site and unless you are either the victim of the scam, contacted by an angry guest, or are monitoring your property name, you may not find out about it. So far Craig’s List is the only site these scams have been known to appear on, but that could change at any time.
In this scam, the scammer creates a listing on Craig’s List, for YOUR property (using a description copied from your website), offering a substantial discount on the rooms, asking that the deposit be sent to a P.O. Box (or address) where the scammer can receive the funds. In the version where they offer a group rate, there is a contract for the group reservation. In some versions they also offer transportation to/from the airport.
From there, it is easy to see what happens. The guest sends in the contract and deposit, the scammer disappears with the money, and you have an unhappy guest who thinks they have a reservation. These scams have been detected via Google Alerts, and when innkeepers have received inquiries about them over the telephone. When Craig’s List has been notified of the violation, the listing has been taken down, though it may take some time for that to occur.
The message can hardly be more clear! For the sake of your reputation, and to avoid being defrauded, take some steps now to set up alerts (did I mention that they’re FREE??) on Google and Yahoo, as well as on SocialMention or Who’s Talkin, and keep an eye on them. Also consider following the tips in our slide presentation. It is very much in your own interest to do so!