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Watch out for hotel booking scams

Watch out for hotel booking scams
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

If you like to travel as much as we do, you know how much fun it is to rack up rewards points from your favorite hotel. If you book enough rooms each year, you'll earn points to redeem for upgraded rooms and free nights in the hotel.

Plus, most hotel rewards programs offer perks like refundable cancellations, gift cards to hotel restaurants, and some even offer free airline flights. If you like those perks, and who wouldn't, you need to be on the lookout for a scam that's really easy to fall for.

The problem begins online. Your hotel has an official site, of course. But if you do a Google search for it, you know that many other sites that have nothing to do with them also come up.

A lot of these sites are fake, and have no affiliation with your hotel, or its rewards program. You can still book a hotel room through the sites. But you won't get any of your hotel's rewards perks, or the comfort of knowing you booked your room through a reputable site. What if you have to cancel, or change your reservation? Who are you going to call about that?

If you want to avoid these hotel scams, follow these simple steps.

1. Scan to the bottom of your hotel site's page, and look for a copyright. It should say something like this, for example: © 1996 - 2015 Marriott International, Inc.

2. Phony hotel sites won't be the first entries that pop up when you search for your hotel's name. If you end up scrolling down the page, looking around for a major hotel chain, you're going too far. Or, you typed in the wrong name.

3. If you suspect something looks odd about your hotel's site, say it offers the option to reserve rooms at competing chains, give the hotel a call. Ask customer service for their Web address; they'll point you in the right direction. If the site you're on doesn't have a customer service number, you're in the wrong place.

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