The crooks start with creating bogus websites for popular hotels such as the Sheraton Skyline Heathrow near London. The hotel's official site is located on http://www.sheratonskyline.com/, while a fake site for the same hotel might be parked on a very similar domain such as http://sheraton-skylinehotel.com/.
"Hotel fraud is usually backed up by job scams, tempting innocent users (mostly young immigrants) with the exciting offer of working abroad. Through the career section, fake hotels actually recruit 'mules' for money laundering," Bitdefender explains.
"Hotel fraud, like any other fraud, may also come combined with social engineering tricks. For instance, an 'authentic' job hunter may see who’s looking for a job or a holiday abroad, creating profiles from personal data people spread on recruitment and social media websites, then convince them by e-mail or instant messaging of his good intentions. After gaining their trust, scammers send the bait out in the wild and let users enter the bogus hotel website."
For the victims, this may end up with having their identities and money stolen - scammers may ask victims for an advance fee for the room offer or the career opportunity.
The bogus site does not have to resemble the legitimate one because these scammers are not phishers. Also, you won't land on such a site via a link you received in an email or seen on a friend's Facebook or Twitter status - this scam is meant to fly under the radar as long as possible.
Bitdefender advises users to check whether they are on a legitimate page via the WHOIS tool. Domains hosting fake hotel sites will have a fairly recent registering date, will often sport a private email address as the owner's contact address, and will likely be registered only for a year.
Alternatively, they can insert the name of the hotel in a search engine, add the words "scam" and "fraud", and see whether there are any ongoing scams tied to its name.