Be Careful Where You Click When Making Flight or Hotel Reservations or It Could Cost You

Christopher Elliott ,

Francis Popiel made the worst booking mistake ever when he booked the right hotel on the wrong site.

The right hotel, in his case, was the Holiday Inn Alexandria in Alexandria, Virginia. Popiel, an engineer from Columbia Station, Ohio, had found the property by Googling “Holiday Inn Alexandria.” But instead of taking him to the official hotel site, the search results led him to a third-party site called

“When you click on this link, it appears to be the Holiday Inn website,” he says. “The photos and layout are the same.”

He says charged him a “deceptive” $159 fee on top of a $338 room rate.

How to Spot an Impostor Site

Ask the site about yourself. Here’s another easy way to determine if a site is legit: It knows you. “A big giveaway is the ability to provide personalized, differentiated products and services,” says Aditi Mehta, a strategy director at PROS, a software firm in Houston. If the site doesn’t know who you are, it may be a third party site pretending to be the real thing.

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