Goa: Cybercriminals deceive tourists in the name of hotel bookings | Goa News

PANAJI: In mid-August, a resort run by an international chain received a frantic call from Gujarat. The caller on the other end of the line complained that despite paying a huge sum, no booking confirmation had been received from the Candolim-based station. Unfortunately, the tourists were only victims of an online scam.
Over the past five months, cybercriminals have been stealing money from tourists, who were just trying to book a vacation in Goa by searching for hotels online. The crooks discovered a loophole.
When searching for a hotel or resort on Google, the online search engine displays basic information about the resort to the right of the search results. The information also includes a contact number and a link at the bottom for hotel owners to claim ownership of the information.
Fraudsters send a request to Google asking to change the information provided. Google usually notifies the resort or business if someone attempts to access and change contact information, but these official Google emails are usually ignored.
“Most owners ignore these emails, which then allows hackers to use other methods to access them. Once Google sends an OTP to the hotel’s registered number, the scammers call the hotel pretending to be from Google and asking for this OTP,” said Viresh Vazriani, who manages online profiles for a few well-known resorts.
Once the scammers gain access to the online listing, they change the contact number and when a tourist calls, they accept reservations and payments on behalf of the resort.
A Divar-based station also suffered the same fate, with many customers complaining they were duped in the name of hotel bookings.
“Local authorities need to take this seriously because in a few hotels I know of, customers have been duped out of Rs 22 lakh and still counting. Regaining access from hackers takes a long time and Google Support does little to address these issues because they don’t have a hotline,” said Vazriani, founder of Growth Gravvy.
Many hotels approached Vazriani to help remove fake phone numbers that were listed on search engines.
The stations have also filed complaints against the police with the Goa Police Cyber ​​Cell.

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