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Security & privacy

Booking a restaurant reservation? Scammers have a new tactic to steal your money

When you make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, you would reasonably expect them to have a seat available for you. But one thing that you definitely don’t want to get with your order is a side serving of fraud drizzled in stolen money.

But why would you suspect that making a simple dinner reservation could lead to criminal activity? It’s not because the booking website is fake or a clone (although that has happened with takeout services), but the site has quietly been hacked.

Everything will look and operate the way it should, but there will be one stark difference. A phone call. Here’s what you need to be aware of and how you can keep your money and details safe.

Here’s the backstory

Typically when you book a spot at a local eatery, you must enter some personal details. This could be anything from your email address, real name and phone number. These details are gathered so that the restaurant can contact you in case something changes with the reservation.

It is very unusual for a restaurant to ask for banking details to make a reservation. It has been a tough year, but the establishment doesn’t need to keep your card details on file.

Now, some people are receiving calls from restaurants that want their card details to reserve a table.

Warning! This is a scam. Through an investigation, it turns out that some reservation sites have been hacked.

Breaching online security, hackers have access to all the details of people who made reservations. Their names, the occasion for the booking and, most importantly, their phone numbers are all visible.

Armed with the information, criminals pose as the restaurant and ask victims for their card details to book the reservation. Once that is obtained, the next phase of the scam kicks in.

After some time, the same person will call the victim and claim to be a local bank representative. The scammer will tell the victim that some unusual activity has been detected, and the only way to stop it is to authorize the transaction on the bank’s mobile app. In a panic, some victims did this, which allowed the scammer to complete the illegal transaction.

What you can do about it

Scammers rely on you being too panicked to realize what is happening. Always remain calm and think the situation through. Financial experts at LoanPig and LoanBird in the U.K. uncovered the scam and urged online users to be more aware. 

Here are some other tips on how not to fall for this scam:

  • When in doubt, hang up – If you receive a suspicious call from a restaurant, hang up and phone them back on their official number.
  • Protect sensitive data – Never give out your banking or card details to anybody that you don’t trust.
  • Know the rules in advance – Check with the restaurant if there is a booking fee. If there isn’t, any call surrounding your credit card is a scam.
  • Watch for suspicious activity with your bank – Never authorize transactions through a banking app that you didn’t make.

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