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Hotel chain alerts its clients about “special offer” telephone scam

PIPEDA findings #2015-020

March 12, 2015

Description

A concerned individual issued a formal complaint because she suspected that a hotel chain linked her IP address with her phone number after she received a promotional phone call. Our Office was informed by the hotel’s representative that the company does not engage in promotional calls, hence the phone call was fraudulent by an unrelated party. As requested by the complainant, the hotel chain responded appropriately in notifying its customers of the scam.

Takeaways

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Emails or phone calls claiming to be from businesses telling that you’ve won a prize or special offer—but requesting that you answer a few personal questions first--are usually bogus. They’re typically a tool used by bad actors to trick you into turning over your personal information. They use this information to steal your identity or for other fraudulent purposes. If you are unsure, contact the business directly and check with them about the communication you received.

Case Summary

An individual was in the process of researching accommodations online for an upcoming trip. Several days after visiting a website belonging to a major hotel chain, the individual received a single phone call from the company, advising her that she had access to a special offer. Apart from visiting the website, the individual had never given the hotel chain any of her personal information, including her phone number or travel plans, nor had she ever engaged with the hotel chain in any way prior to this. The individual believed that the hotel chain got her phone number as a result of her visit to the website and became concerned by the link between her IP address and phone number. The individual contacted the hotel chain, which assured her that it did not collect her personal information and that she was not in its contact database. However, she was still concerned about the unsolicited calls.

The complainant decided to file a formal complaint with our Office regarding the collection of her personal information by the hotel chain for the purpose of the offer received. Our Office reached out to both the complainant and respondent in the context of our early resolution process. When we contacted the hotel chain regarding the special offer phone call made to the individual, a representative asserted that the chain does not engage in any telemarketing in Canada. Any phone calls that were supposedly made on behalf of the hotel were in fact part of a telemarketing scam. We then provided an explanation to the complainant that the calls were unrelated to her visit to the hotel chain’s website, but instead were part of a scam orchestrated by another party.

Update

The complainant suggested that the hotel chain take measures to indicate to its customers that any phone calls claiming to be affiliated with the organization are part of a telemarketing scam. The complainant was satisfied with our Office’s explanation. The hotel chain took appropriate measures to notify its customers of the potential scam. The matter was thus considered resolved through our Office’s early resolution process.

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