I Gave a Scammer My Credit Card Number — Reader Mistake Story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Kim, who got a suspicious phone call in her room during a hotel stay:
I was working in my room at the Gaylord National Resort (a Marriott property), and I ordered room service for breakfast. After it was delivered, I got a phone call in my room (supposedly from the hotel) asking me how my breakfast was. They told me they had an issue with the way an employee placed my order, and that they needed my credit card information again.
It seemed a little fishy, but the caller knew my name, room number, that I had ordered breakfast and the exact amount that was charged to the room. I didn't want to go downstairs to give them my card in person since I was working, so I gave the information over the phone. Within minutes, Amex was calling and texting about a suspected fraudulent charge for $211 to Hickory Farms.
I filed an incident report with the hotel, and they said they would get back to me in a few business days. The receptionist who helped me get security told me (unofficially) that it must have been an employee, since no one external could call my room directly. My credit card immediately detected the issue, so the impact could have been worse, but there had to have been others in the hotel who had the same misfortune. I feel stupid that I fell for this scam, but it was very convincing and I hope others will learn from my mistake.
The recent onslaught of data breaches and phishing scams can make the task of protecting your personal information feel Sisyphean. But with the growing odds that your data may be compromised through no fault of your own, it's even more important to remain vigilant about safeguarding your accounts. The harder you make it for thieves to gain access, the less likely you are to be targeted, so basic security precautions are a must.
A good general rule is to never provide personal information to someone you don't know in a conversation you didn't initiate — that goes for email as well as phone calls. Scams like the one Kim encountered have been around for years in one form or another. The perpetrator may have been an employee in this case, but others have exploited weaknesses in hotel phone systems to make external calls seem like they're coming from within the property. Payment questions should be handled exclusively at the front desk, and hotel staff should never call you to request sensitive information; any such request should immediately arouse suspicion.
On that note, it's important to heed those suspicions. There's a wide variety of scams out there, and sometimes it's hard to see all the angles, but if your gut tells you something is off, listen.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Kim a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "Reader Mistake Story" in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!