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Is this a weird attempt at a scam?
January 5, 2012 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Are these hotel reservation requests a scam of some sort? If so, how are they supposed to work?

I work for a large hotel chain taking care of reservations and answering inquiries on rates, availability, loyalty club perks, etc. There is a general e-mail box for the chain, info@______.com which I also look at. At least once or twice a month, in the midst of all the other email that comes into there, I see a request with a vague subject line like Re: Booking.

The content is quite similar each time, and always more or less like this:


From: Paul Smith (psmith8793@hotmail.com)
To: info@________.com
Re: RESERVATIONS


DEAR SIR OR MADAM:

I AM WISHING TO ENQUIRE FOR BOOKING ACCOMMADATION IN YOUR FACILITY FOR 4 PERSONS 7 NIGHTS COMMENCING JANUARY 19.

ROOM TYPE: 3 STANDARD
ROOMS CHECK IN: 19/01/2012
CHECK OUT: 7 NIGHTS


GUESTS:

DR. AND MRS. JOHN DOE
MASTER JOHN DOE JR.
MISS JANE DOE

PLEASE KINDLY CONFIRM IF YOU HAVE AVAILABLE ROOMS AND ALSO CAN YOU CONFIRM IF YOU ACCEPT VISA AND MASTER CREDIT CARDS FOR PAYMENTS FOR THE ACCOMMODATION.

WARM REGARDS,
SMITH

These emails all have certain similarities: they invariably come from Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo addresses and from people with such unremarkable Anglo names (Henry Brown, John Jackson, Steve Ford) that they suggest pseudonyms chosen for blandness. Likewise the names of the supposed guests are curiously flavorless, save that one or two members of the party will have a slightly socially elevated title (Dr., Rev., etc). There are almost always four people in the group, either a nuclear family or two couples. The text of the request is always written in a slightly stilted fashion and usually appears in ALL CAPS. There are frequently minor spelling or grammatical errors that strongly suggest English is not the writer's native language, but of course much of our business is from overseas. There is sometimes a vague religious undertone (a sign-off including GOD BLESS or something of the sort) but this is not always the case. And despite coming to the general info mailbox, none of the requests ever mentions what city. Never have I seen one of these asking specifically for Chicago or Atlanta or anything.

Invariably I or my colleagues write back to the sender asking for further details - specifically, which hotel they wish to book for. In the two years I have been doing this, we have never received an answer to our requests for clarification.

Something about this reminds me of the feel of Nigerian scam e-mails but I do not see what the angle is. Anyone else in the hospitality industry encountered this?

(Anonymous because my employer probably wouldn't be thrilled with me discussing nominally private emails with the world at large.)
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like a phishing scam of some sort.
posted by dfriedman at 11:17 AM on January 5, 2012


I'm a tour operator and we get this type of email almost daily. Don't open, hit DELETE, keep calm and carry on.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:18 AM on January 5, 2012


If you fall for it, they're planning on sending you money that is more than the amount you quotes. They'll then ask you to wire back the difference with a money order. They're possibly working with stolen credit cards. Yup, delete. More info here.
posted by Melismata at 11:33 AM on January 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


More here.

They probably do not respond to your response because they've realized they are dealing with a major player who isn't worth phishing with. They ones that might fall for it are small family operations, B&Bs, guest houses, etc.
posted by beagle at 11:40 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


We get tons of these about restaurant reservations and products we manufacture, because we maintain a restaurant listing database and we do product gift guides. We don't actually run a restaurant or sell any products.

They're just advanced fee scam emails that you can ignore.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:41 AM on January 5, 2012


Yep, pre-pay scam. At our little country cottage accommodation we get about one a week often for 6 bishops from the UK wanting to stay for 2 weeks. I delete and move on. However I would like to see the scammers played by an anti-scammer and see what happened.
posted by Kerasia at 2:14 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia: Advance-fee fraud: rental scams
posted by grouse at 3:20 PM on January 5, 2012


I work for an internet company that is in no way connected to any aspect of the hospitality industry. We still get a couple of these a week.
posted by Adventurer at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2012


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