The Green Sheet Online Edition
August 10, 2015 • Issue 15:08:01
New credit card scam at resort area hotels
There is a telling scene in The Guard, an independent film in which Brendan Gleeson plays a lazy, small-town police sergeant, and Don Cheadle portrays an FBI agent tracking a large drug ring in the West of Ireland.
Gleeson: "You know, I been readin' where they're smuggling the cocaine over to Colombia in submarines – submarines they built themselves, like."
Cheadle: "Yeah, it sounds insane, but it is true. You are correct."
Gleeson: "Crafty little buggers. Y'have to admire their enterprise, huh?"
Cheadle: "No sergeant, you don't."
Gleeson: "Ahh ya do."
Fraudsters and scam artists are never at a loss for creativity. A recent example is a payment scam targeting consumers and destination hotels that has taken on a life of its own in Orlando, Fla., San Diego and other vacation hot spots.
How it works
After a late flight, you enter your hotel room to find two or three flyers on the floor from local pizza and sandwich eateries. The hotel restaurant is closed, and the flyers advertise delivery as late as 2 a.m. You call the number and order the legendary chicken parmigiana over pasta with a side of garlic bread, then give your credit card information and room number. "Be there in 30 minutes," the voice on the other end of the phone says.
And you wait. Thirty minutes passes. Then 45. After an hour your phone vibrates from an e-mail, but it's not the restaurant from which you've ordered. It's your credit card issuer requesting you contact it immediately. There has been suspicious activity regarding your card.
Credit card fraud rampant as ever
At the 2015 CNP Expo May 18 to 21 in Orlando, about two-thirds of the more than 30 seminars dealt with payments security and fraud. Attendees and guests were told to ignore the restaurant delivery flyers underneath their room doors (two to three were under some guests' doors each night) because they may be fraudulent.
In many hotels, the distribution of flyers underneath guest room doors and on the windshields of parked cars is not permitted. Some delivery/takeout eateries, however, find ways to enter guest areas.
"It is easy for [the fraudsters] to leave flyers, especially if there are no guest card readers in the elevators," said John, the Director of Security at a large Midwest hotel, who requested anonymity. "At our hotel, no delivery drivers are able to access the guest floors. We phone the guests and ask them to come down to the lobby.
"Our front desk staff has relationships with many of the local places," John said. "We'll keep their menus on file at the front desk. Some of the restaurants even offer our employees discounts." He added that a restaurant flyer found in a hotel guest room would be considered a red flag.
What hotel/motel merchants can do
While large hotels and resorts have the security staff to prevent delivery fraud, thousands of smaller hotels and motels throughout U.S. destination locations have limited or no security personnel. However, hotels and restaurants can work together to vet the honest merchants.
When local eateries leave flyers under guest doors or on vehicle windshields at one of your hotel or motel clients, suggest that a manager ask them to leave flyers at the front desk instead and offer to recommend the establishments to guests in exchange. Those that do not cooperate should be deemed suspect.
What take-out/delivery merchants can do
Fraud like this casts a pall over legitimate merchants. However, your take-out/delivery clients can turn this into an opportunity with the following steps:
- Register and develop relationships with each and every hotel and concierge staff within your delivery perimeter, so that your eatery is recognized and even suggested to guests.
- Advertise your business within the hotel guest handbook.
- Offer deals for vacationers, hotel guests and hotel staff to further establish legitimacy.
- If your establishment distributes flyers, display prominently that you accept cash or credit card at the time of delivery.
Chris O'Donnell is a Senior Copywriter for the Instabill Corporation, in Portsmouth, N.H. Instabill is a full service provider of merchant accounts to e-commerce, MOTO and POS businesses. A resident of coastal New England, Mr. O'Donnell is also a contributor to The Daily News (Newburyport, Mass.) and Newburyport Magazine.
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