James McAvoy Was Almost Duped Out of $13,000 in a Fake Hotel Scam

Nov 5, 2018

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Scottish actor James McAvoy has a message for you: Don’t get scammed out of $13,000.

 

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The “Shameless” star was recently trying to book a trip to The Ritz-Carlton, Abama in Tenerife, Spain. He was using the website “www.ritzabamatenerife.com” — which has since been shut down — to plan a vacation for his family when he noticed things were a little off.

He was planning on spending £10,000 (almost $13,000) and was emailing back and forth with “some guy named Joaquin.” The website he used was “actually better” than the Ritz-Carlton’s — complete “with a phone number, stuff like that. Just very, very convincing,” he said. But, something told him it was too good to be true. He ended up cross-checking the deal with a travel agent who confirmed his suspicions.

The site was actually a fake phishing scheme run by scammers.

This is a growing trend in online hotel booking. Swindlers can create website addresses that are similar to a hotel or vacation rental site’s URL and create a phony booking platform using stolen details like pictures from the hotel website. Then they will ask for credit card numbers or a bank transfer. This is especially common for booking vacation rentals on sites like Craigslist.

Thankfully, McAvoy caught on to the grift before it was too late. In fact, one of the scammers asked him to “make a payment via a bank transfer” after he sent them a picture of his passport. He said he’s done things like this in the past, and that “paying by bank transfer instead of credit card or check actually seems like a safer way to do it. You also get a 10 percent discount, they say by doing a bank transfer,” he said. “Again, more incentive to get excited about it.”

The travel agent ultimately told McAvoy the trip was “a tenth of the price that it should be.” Needless to say, McAvoy noted that he is “not going on that holiday!”

Experts say to always double check the website address you click on is the verified hotel or booking site URL. On Airbnb, for example, you should see “https://www.airbnb.com” as the URL. If something like “airbnb1.com” or “airbnb.bya.com” is listed, it is most likely a scam. (In McAvoy’s case, the correct URL should have been http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/spain/abama).

Additionally, while booking with a bank transfer might seem like a good idea (for legitimate sites, at least), you’d be missing out on valuable points or miles. For example, by booking with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’d get 3x points on this purchase — not to mention many credit cards generally offer fraud protection.

The Ritz-Carlton has been alerted about the incident. If there’s anything to be learned from this story: Take the time to triple check that something is legitimate. If it sounds too good to be true, well, it just may be.

Featured image courtesy The Ritz-Carlton, Abama

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