Booking a hotel room online for a vacation can be an easy and economical way to find a room.  It can also be an easy way to be scammed.  According to recent figures from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, consumers were duped into making reservations at hotel websites they thought were those of particular hotels, but actually were websites set up by scammers  who victimized 55 million people last year using this scam.  This is three times the number of people falling victim to this scam from just a year earlier.  The money lost to these scammers is estimated to be almost 4 billion dollars this year.   Merely because a website comes up high in a Google search does not mean that it is legitimate. It only means that the scammer knows how to manipulate the algorithms used by Google to get a good position in an online search.  Sometimes the scam website uses the logos of well-known hotel chains although they are not connected to the hotel chain.  When you make a reservation with these scam websites, you run the risk of one of two problems.  The first is that you will end up paying more than you would have at the  legitimate hotel website because of hidden charges or second and worst, you may not get anything and end up having your credit card number stolen.
So how do you recognize a phony hotel website?  Go to this website where you can input the exact URL of the website that purports to be the official hotel website and you can find out who actually owns the website.
It is important to remember not to use your debit card for a reservation.  Using a credit card will make it easier for you to dispute any charges with which you disagree as well as have any fraudulent charges removed.  Finally, make sure whenever you transmit personal information such as a credit card number online that the URL is preceded by “https” rather than just “http.”  The “s” means that your data is being protected by encryption while being transmitted.