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'The Hotel That Never Was!': Beware of This Fake Website Duping Tourists in Odisha's Puri

By: Kamalika Sengupta

News18

Last Updated: December 07, 2022, 20:30 IST

Puri, India

When you land up in Puri, however, you find that not only does no booking exist in your name, but the hotel has not received any money (Representative)

When you land up in Puri, however, you find that not only does no booking exist in your name, but the hotel has not received any money (Representative)

This website provides a WhatsApp mobile number and email ID, and you get in touch with what you think is the hotel

Are you searching for a good hotel to stay in Puri? Obviously, you will search on social media and Google. Beautiful rooms, sea facing verandah photos in the website will draw your attention and you may book the room.

This website provides a WhatsApp mobile number and email ID, and you get in touch with what you think is the hotel. They respond and ask you to transfer 50 per cent of the booking amount in advance, which you do. When you land up in Puri, however, you find that not only does no booking exist in your name, but the hotel has not received any money as advance either. In fact, the hotel personnel don’t even know you exist!

This is what is happening for the last four months to various tourists. A lot of them have fallen prey to such fraudulent tourist websites.

The Kolkata Police have got some cases and started campaigning to highlight these fraudulent activities. “The Hotel That Never Was!” Is the heading under which Kolkata Police has given do’s and don’ts

Between September and November, the Cyber Police Station Lalbazar received more than one complaint dealing specifically with such fake hotel bookings for Puri, a popular holiday destination for Kolkatans.

While our investigations are in progress, we do ask all of you to observe a few basic precautions when transacting online:

  1. Check the domain name closely, and make sure it matches the service provider’s name in every way
  2. Look for a padlock symbol next to the website URL
  3. Use a website checker or safe browsing tools
  4. Look for poor spelling, design issues, and other red flags
  5. Check the domain age using online tools
  6. Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true
  7. In the case of hotel bookings, look for user reviews, and check for reports of scams
  8. Read information such as shipping and return policy carefully
  9. Scrutinise your payment options
  10. Don’t be fooled by ‘trust signals’ such as claims of awards etc. Check if they are authentic
  11. Run a virus scan

Kolkata Police DC Cyber crime Atul Vishwanathan speaking to News18 said: “We have got a couple of cases, we felt that awareness is important in these cases. So we have already started a campaign on social media, also we plan to add this in our cybercrime awareness programme in schools.”

Hotel owner Ashish Kapoor in Puri said several tourists arrive at his hotel with such fake bookings. Speaking to News18, Ashish said, “This is happening for the last 6 months and it’s not only happening to me, but 20 other hotels are also facing the same problem.

There is some gang which has formed fake accounts in the name of our hotels and they are duping tourists. We have complained to Cuttack SP as well as to the Kolkata police. When we lock one fake account, another comes up.”

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first published:December 07, 2022, 20:30 IST
last updated:December 07, 2022, 20:30 IST
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