Expedia woes: an $8 scam, confusion, no access to Fraud Dept.

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Jun 17, 2019
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I discovered an $8 charge on my Visa card two weekends ago that neither I nor my wife knew about. It was from “Online Reservation Specialists” in Bunnell, Florida. I phoned them, they answered, but she said that because of “privacy reasons” she couldn’t tell me any details about the charge. It was, she said probably because I booked a hotel/motel room online with some entity like Travelocity about 2 or 3 weeks earlier. Indeed, I had. I had booked a hotel room for late August through tripadvisor.com, but the website then said that they had involved their “partner” Travelocity, so I received email confirmations from both TripAdvisor and Travelocity saying that I would pay at check-in the entire bill for room, taxes, and fees (not true: the hotel charged the full amount the day I made the reservation). Nothing about an $8 fee.

So I contacted Capital One bank and the agent claimed that it was obviously fraud, so they would cancel my credit card. I objected, so I was kept on the phone for nearly 3 hours as a Supervisor in the Fraud Dept. of Capital One called and spoke with multiple agents at TripAdvisor and Travelocity, and with the front desk clerk at the hotel. Her calls to the Florida firm all went to voicemail.

The Tripadvisor and Travelocity agents (and the hotel) all insisted that they hadn’t charged or authorized any $8 fee, although the hotel clerk said that some guests had mentioned an $8 fee. Not resolving the matter after 3 hours, Capital One canceled my credit card, so I had no card from Monday mid-day to Thursday morning, when I received a replacement; so now I have to change default card numbers on websites and for recurring charges. I phoned the Florida outfit again Thursday morning, but I was told that they could reveal no information and then they hung-up on me. It seems as though this scam has been going on for years (e.g. https://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/8669301117). Who knows how many thousands of travelers have been cheated?

A related matter arose late in my 3 hours on the phone with the Fraud agent. The hotel claimed that my reservation had been made by Expedia, not Travelocity. So the Fraud Dept. agent spent time trying to figure out if Expedia was responsible for the $8 charge, but we had no Expedia confirmation number and time was getting late in the day. What I have subsequently learned is that the many supposedly independent websites are almost all owned by only two companies: Expedia (e.g. Travelocity, CheapTickets, trivago, orbitz, Hotels.com) and Booking Holdings (e.g. OpenTable, Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com). Most travelers and hotels (like mine), and even Capital One bank apparently don’t. This generally unknown fact further confused the attempt to identify the source of the scam.

My attempt to deal with the $8 scam continued later in the week and I finally reached Bethany Black in the Expedia Corporate Customer Services office. She absolutely refused to forward my story to Expedia’s Fraud Department. She finally said that she would not be allowed to even write a letter sent by US mail to the Fraud Dept. of the company she works for! The only way to get her Fraud Dept. involved, she said, would be to have “my bank’s” fraud department contact Expedia’s fraud department. I’m sure that Capital One would love to do that after already spending hours on the matter so far. How is that for a customer-friendly policy on Expedia's part? I plan to avoid using any travel site owned by Expedia in the future.

This tale of woes had made me unhappy not only with Expedia, but with TripAdvisor, and with Capital One bank...and with the State of Florida. Not only has this scam company been allowed to commit fraud for years but Expedia apparently has procedural errors that transmit one's credit card number to such a company.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
It appears that some hotels use this company as a middleman for processing reservations.

What did your confirmation say? Is there any mention of an $8 fee.

There are reports of this happening back to 2011

This is how the company describes themselves:

We are a GDS provider for hotels,motels, Inns and B&Bs. We charge an $8 reservation fee for reservations made at our properties threw online travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com. We have hundreds of properties to process, so in some cases, these charges may not appear for 30-60 days from date of reservation. We supply the travel sites and agents the fee schedule and they should be listing it with the hotel's policies and procedures. In some cases some sites just list "other fees may apply" If you have a charge from us and you have an issue as to what it is for or that the travel site and or agent never told you about the fee, please either e-mail us at admin@onlinegdsreservation or leave a call. WE try to respond to all e-mails and messages within 24-48 hours. Out office is only open M-F so all weekend calls and e-mails will be responded to the following business day.
 
Likes: jsn55
Jun 17, 2019
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#4
As I stated, two emailed confirmations (one from Travelocity, the other from Tripadvisor) did *not* mention an $8 fee. And their agents contacted by the bank Fraud department insisted that they made or authorized no $8 fee. The manager of the front desk of the hotel insisted, on the phone, that the hotel does not use any other entity for their reservations and did not authorize any $8 fee.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
As I stated, two emailed confirmations (one from Travelocity, the other from Tripadvisor) did *not* mention an $8 fee. And their agents contacted by the bank Fraud department insisted that they made or authorized no $8 fee. The manager of the front desk of the hotel insisted, on the phone, that the hotel does not use any other entity for their reservations and did not authorize any $8 fee.
It sounds suspicious to me. Is the hotel part of a chain? Is there someone above the manager to contact?
 
Jun 17, 2019
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It sounds suspicious to me. Is the hotel part of a chain? Is there someone above the manager to contact?
No, it is a stand-alone historic hotel. The front-desk manager sounded very knowledgeable and authoritative on the phone. She said that several guests had mentioned an $8 fee, but she insisted they could not be responsible.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#8
FOR OUR OTHER READERS This is by far the WORST story involving online booking services I can remember. For starters, TripAdvisor is a website you access when you want information on almost anything to do with travel. They realized some time ago that they had built a reputation as a credible source of information. They decided to start offering "direct" booking services to cash in on people's travel plans. It's just a money grab, as you see from this awful story. They know that millions of people don't really undersand who they're dealing with on the internet, but think it's all great fun and convenient. TA farms out the booking to who knows whom, who then farms it out to another entity ... it's insane. They all collect commissions from the hotel, and obviously some of them bill the customer directly.

oBOOK DIRECT with a hotel or airline. The only exception is when there's no other choice, as a tiny family-run hotel in the wilds of the Borneo, or having a cruise line book your air at a great rate. Print this story out and hang it on your bulletin board in case you confuse the ease of doing everything online, probably on your phone with putting your credit card and personal information out there for anyone to pick up.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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#9
Why are you unhappy with credit card company?

Sounds to me like they did what you want them to do in the case of suspected fraud.

I would suggest, if possible, you secure one other credit card as one never knows when something like this might occur or you lose it, etc -

This is always a possible risk when using cards (whether in person or online) -

Having had my cc info stolen/used a few times, I try to minimize exposure but you can do just so much: the bad guys always seem a step ahead.

I now remove my card info after I make any purchases online - given the various hacks that have taken place. Makes me feel better even if it is small gesture in trying to avoid this hassle. It only takes about 30 seconds for me to put the card info into a site when buying online so, I choose to do that way -

I also only ever book directly with an accommodation - I've yet to find a better deal with a third party booking website and have no interest in having another party involved in a financial transaction than is absolutely necessary.
 
Jan 11, 2019
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#10
I would never use Expedia again. Our car rental in Europe last year was purchased throughExpedia/Hertz. We were overcharged (double Expedia agreed price) and only with the help of Elliott Org. were we able to resolve this obvious ripoff. Friends, stay clear of Expedia in all its forms.
 
May 26, 2018
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#11
I discovered an $8 charge on my Visa card two weekends ago that neither I nor my wife knew about. It was from “Online Reservation Specialists” in Bunnell, Florida. I phoned them, they answered, but she said that because of “privacy reasons” she couldn’t tell me any details about the charge. It was, she said probably because I booked a hotel/motel room online with some entity like Travelocity about 2 or 3 weeks earlier. Indeed, I had. I had booked a hotel room for late August through tripadvisor.com, but the website then said that they had involved their “partner” Travelocity, so I received email confirmations from both TripAdvisor and Travelocity saying that I would pay at check-in the entire bill for room, taxes, and fees (not true: the hotel charged the full amount the day I made the reservation). Nothing about an $8 fee.

So I contacted Capital One bank and the agent claimed that it was obviously fraud, so they would cancel my credit card. I objected, so I was kept on the phone for nearly 3 hours as a Supervisor in the Fraud Dept. of Capital One called and spoke with multiple agents at TripAdvisor and Travelocity, and with the front desk clerk at the hotel. Her calls to the Florida firm all went to voicemail.

The Tripadvisor and Travelocity agents (and the hotel) all insisted that they hadn’t charged or authorized any $8 fee, although the hotel clerk said that some guests had mentioned an $8 fee. Not resolving the matter after 3 hours, Capital One canceled my credit card, so I had no card from Monday mid-day to Thursday morning, when I received a replacement; so now I have to change default card numbers on websites and for recurring charges. I phoned the Florida outfit again Thursday morning, but I was told that they could reveal no information and then they hung-up on me. It seems as though this scam has been going on for years (e.g. https://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/8669301117). Who knows how many thousands of travelers have been cheated?

A related matter arose late in my 3 hours on the phone with the Fraud agent. The hotel claimed that my reservation had been made by Expedia, not Travelocity. So the Fraud Dept. agent spent time trying to figure out if Expedia was responsible for the $8 charge, but we had no Expedia confirmation number and time was getting late in the day. What I have subsequently learned is that the many supposedly independent websites are almost all owned by only two companies: Expedia (e.g. Travelocity, CheapTickets, trivago, orbitz, Hotels.com) and Booking Holdings (e.g. OpenTable, Kayak, Priceline, Booking.com). Most travelers and hotels (like mine), and even Capital One bank apparently don’t. This generally unknown fact further confused the attempt to identify the source of the scam.

My attempt to deal with the $8 scam continued later in the week and I finally reached Bethany Black in the Expedia Corporate Customer Services office. She absolutely refused to forward my story to Expedia’s Fraud Department. She finally said that she would not be allowed to even write a letter sent by US mail to the Fraud Dept. of the company she works for! The only way to get her Fraud Dept. involved, she said, would be to have “my bank’s” fraud department contact Expedia’s fraud department. I’m sure that Capital One would love to do that after already spending hours on the matter so far. How is that for a customer-friendly policy on Expedia's part? I plan to avoid using any travel site owned by Expedia in the future.

This tale of woes had made me unhappy not only with Expedia, but with TripAdvisor, and with Capital One bank...and with the State of Florida. Not only has this scam company been allowed to commit fraud for years but Expedia apparently has procedural errors that transmit one's credit card number to such a company.
This is why I book directly with the hotel or hotel chain as much as possible.
 
Likes: Neil Maley

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,218
8,136
113
San Francisco
#12
Why are you unhappy with credit card company?

Sounds to me like they did what you want them to do in the case of suspected fraud.

I would suggest, if possible, you secure one other credit card as one never knows when something like this might occur or you lose it, etc -

This is always a possible risk when using cards (whether in person or online) -

Having had my cc info stolen/used a few times, I try to minimize exposure but you can do just so much: the bad guys always seem a step ahead.

I now remove my card info after I make any purchases online - given the various hacks that have taken place. Makes me feel better even if it is small gesture in trying to avoid this hassle. It only takes about 30 seconds for me to put the card info into a site when buying online so, I choose to do that way -

I also only ever book directly with an accommodation - I've yet to find a better deal with a third party booking website and have no interest in having another party involved in a financial transaction than is absolutely necessary.
You are SO right, LeeM. Never "save" your credit card online. That's kind of the epitome of what is wrong with using the internet today ... people think it's a "convenience". While it really is an invitation for someone to swoop down and grab your CC info, along with a ton of other personal information. Unless you're buying something online every 5 minutes, the extra 60 seconds it takes you to enter your CC info is well worth it.
 
Oct 10, 2015
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#13
If the merchant or the credit card company is willing to cancel the charge against you then you have no further right to get information about the charge.

If you do not know where a charge came from, you have every right to ask for information about it. Then you need to not put it on the back burner because if you wait too long you will not be able to open a real dispute later. The credit card company may choose to make it into a dispute immediately, credit your account, and worry about it themselves.
 
Jun 17, 2019
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#14
I've been asked in this thread: why am I unhappy with the credit card company? It is because after spending nearly 3 hours on the phone with their Fraud Dept., talking with agents at TripAdvisor, Travelocity, etc., it was perfectly clear that this was not a typical fraud case in which someone has copied my card number and then used it to buy a bunch of stuff. Instead, from what we heard during those hours, it was clearly a case of a travel-industry-related organization getting my card number somehow through a particular booking I made via Travelocity. Capital One was at very low risk of getting additional fraudulent charges. So I asked the Capital One agent if I could, instead, just dispute the charge. They said "no". As soon as I clicked a button on their web page saying that I did not recognize the charge, it goes onto a one-way path of possible fraud: if they can't resolve the matter, then they cancel my card. It is too late to "just dispute" the charge. That is a really terrible way for them to do business with credit card customers. Quite often there are charges I don't recognize because the name of the business I know operates under a different name in relating to the bank. In any case, when your card gets canceled, you have to spend a lot of extra time notifying entities that have recurrent charges on the card and putting in your new, replacement card number on websites as your default card number. Plus the three days that I didn't have any credit card to use was another cost. They shouldn't automatically consider it fraud if you say you don't immediately recognize the charge.

I understand from earlier comments in this thread that maybe I shouldn't put default card numbers on the web. In particular, I will stop ever using any Expedia-related website in the future and try to book directly with the hotel, if possible. Just today I got a call from someone who says he is in Expedia's Transactions Dept., which handles fraud. (I got through to an Expedia official through info on this Elliott website: thanks!) The man says that Tripadvisor (or at least its website) is owned by Expedia. (It is not what Wikipedia says.) Can that be right???

And, BTW, if it isn't clear, my interest is not in getting reimbursed for the $8 (which the bank has already done). My purpose is to try to relate to other consumers some of the numerous glitches and unknown facts about travel bookings.
 

Carrie Livingston

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Jan 6, 2015
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#15
I believe Trip Advisor is owned by Expedia. From a Google search...

Is Trip Advisor owned by Expedia?
Expedia Inc.: Owns Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Venere.com,TripAdvisor.com — plus TripAdvisor subsidiaries CruiseCritic.com, BookingBuddy.com, SmarterTravel.com, SeatGuru.com, AirfareWatchdog.com and IndependentTraveler.com. Orbitz Worldwide: Owns Orbitz.com, CheapTickets.com and RatestoGo.com.Aug 5, 2009
 
Jun 17, 2019
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#16
I believe Trip Advisor is owned by Expedia. From a Google search...


This is all very confusing. Since my last post, I have another email from Expedia saying that they do NOT own Traveladvisor. Beyond that, Wikipedia says that Orbitz and CheapTickets are owned by Expedia. And the Expedia guy I talked with on the phone earlier today talked to me about my Expedia reservation for a hotel in Switzerland, which was also screwed up; it was made by CheapTickets as another Tripadvisor "partner".
 
Jan 11, 2019
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#17
I believe Trip Advisor is owned by Expedia. From a Google search...

Is Trip Advisor owned by Expedia?
Expedia Inc.: Owns Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Venere.com,TripAdvisor.com — plus TripAdvisor subsidiaries CruiseCritic.com, BookingBuddy.com, SmarterTravel.com, SeatGuru.com, AirfareWatchdog.com and IndependentTraveler.com. Orbitz Worldwide: Owns Orbitz.com, CheapTickets.com and RatestoGo.com.Aug 5, 2009
Why am I not surprised? Goodbye TripAdviser. Your credibility is now lacking.