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Hotel Power booking website subject of "internal embezzlement"

Hotel Power booking website subject of "internal embezzlement"

Old Jul 25, 19, 6:54 pm
  #1  
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Hotel Power booking website subject of "internal embezzlement"

Yes, I checked search to see if this was posted already elsewhere, doesn't seem to be.

Back in mid-December 2018 booked a thanksgiving 2019 trip to Mexico. About $1200 for the hotel. Used miles for air travel.

Used tripadvisor to find the best booking deal, I just picked the lowest one. Site seemed legit. Paid for it in full.

Called the hotel a few months ago to ask about upgrade options. They had our reservation, all good.

Today I get an email from [email protected] titled "Urgent Upcoming Hotel Reservation Update" and they share this gem:

We are writing to notify you of a potential concern with your recent hotel reservation made through HotelPower.com. We want to inform you that it was recently discovered that HotelPower.comwas victim to a significant employee embezzlement scheme. Legal proceedings have been commenced in an effort to resolve this matter, but as a result, some of our customers’ reservations may have been canceled at the scheduled properties. We have identified your reservation as one that has been impacted that the supplier may not honor.

(They list the hotel reservation I made)

We recommend that you immediately contact the property at which you planned on staying to verify the status of your reservation with the hotel reservations department. If the reservation has been canceled, we recommend you take the following actions:

· Request that the property immediately reinstate your reservation ask to speak with the hotel manager if necessary. Please note, the property’s ability to do this will be based on their availability at that time. Request that they honor the rate that was entered in their reservation system prior to any cancellation.

· If the property is able to reinstate your reservation, they may require payment to do so.

· If you are required to pay again you should contact your bank or credit/debit card provider that you paid for the booking with Hotelpower.com to request a chargeback refund for services not rendered up to the amount originally charged at the time of booking. You may provide this letter to your credit card provider as evidence of your entitlement to a refund. If you are having issues getting your bank or credit/debit card provider to provide you with a timely refund please call us immediately at toll free (888)-507-0425. International Callers dial US Area code (925)-334-3573

· If you have purchased travel insurance you may want to also contact your travel insurance carrier to set up a claim or possible claim for any amounts you paid.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may experience as a result of this unfortunate event. If you have any questions regarding our recommended actions or need our assistance, please call us at 1-(888)-507-0425 and we will be happy to assist in resolving your issue. International callers dial US Area code (925)-334-3573.

Sincerely,

HotelPower.com Guest Service Team
-------------

So I call the hotel directly today (July 25) and they said that according to their records, the reservation was canceled on July 17th, a little over a week ago. Obviously, we didn't cancel it. Hotel can't see who did it.

Call a bunch of different phone numbers I find around the HotelPower site and end up with some poor guy from a call center and he starts reading a script saying "We were subject to a fraud...". I tell him something of this size must be in the news but I don't see anything. Can he give me the contact information for the law enforcement agency that is investigating this so I can reach out to them? "Sorry, the accounting department has left for the day and they have this information."

So the payment was made mid-December on Visa, long past a usual 60-day window to dispute. The hotel says sure, I can book another room at 2x the price now and pay in full. I don't blame them, the booking company either never paid or took the money back.

The whole thing seems sketchy if it was some massive fraud I'd think it would be all over the news about leaving travelers stranded.

I'm guessing I'm SOL unless any of my FT friends have suggestions?
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Old Jul 25, 19, 7:30 pm
  #2  
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I am sorry for your situation but the appropriate forum for your topic is the Online Travel Booking Forum. Please follow there.
Good Luck,
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Old Jul 25, 19, 7:34 pm
  #3  
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This sounds fishy on a lot of levels. Certainly file a chargeback on the credit card. The product has not been delivered.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 7:35 pm
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Sorry Mod, thanks for putting in the right spot here!

Last edited by DMSFCA; Jul 25, 19 at 8:08 pm
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Old Jul 25, 19, 8:49 pm
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Hmmmm... Wouldn't a major company have some sort of insurance to cover employees' misdeeds/customer losses?

Or was this some fly by night company operated in someone's basement?
I've never heard of them, but that doesn't mean much.

GC
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Old Jul 25, 19, 11:41 pm
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Originally Posted by GeezerCouple View Post
Hmmmm... Wouldn't a major company have some sort of insurance to cover employees' misdeeds/customer losses?

Or was this some fly by night company operated in someone's basement?
I've never heard of them, but that doesn't mean much.

GC
Yes, a major company should have insurance to cover this. I am a one-man shop and have insurance to cover this type of situation. The website seems like it is still taking bookings...time for a chargeback.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 11:58 pm
  #7  
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Do you know where this outfit is located? The UK has some special protections that are oriented toward purchasers of package tours, but they might apply.

Do they belong to any TA organizations? Some of them have rules about insurance and how funds must be handled. Do you know whether they sell plane tickets or just hotel rooms? Also, is the hotel part of any chain or similar organization that could exert pressure for them to at least honor the price you had even if you must pay again?

CA seems so have strong state-level consumer protection regulations and agencies, so you might try calling the state AG office for example unless some other agency obviously is applicable.

I'm having some difficulty seeing how an internal fraud problem would lead to losing a prepaid reservation more than six months after it was made unless the funds weren't sent to the hotel and they also weren't reserved or set aside in some special account. It almost sounds like this was some sort of Ponzi scheme with the OLTA hoping that future bookings would be enough to cover the cost of existing reservation obligations. In fact, I almost wonder whether the business model might have been to undercut the hotel's actual price to generate more bookings, hoping that future revenues would be sufficient.....

What sort of confirmation did you get? A voucher? Some sort of confirmation from the hotel or just the OLTA?

It sounds to me like the OLTA is on the verge of bankruptcy, so you want to claim money from your credit card before they officially go under and you become part of a mass of unsecured creditors with very low priority to receive anything. Contact your credit card immediately even if it's past the deadline. [IME AmEx is usually good about this, especially for longterm holders of premium cards....or AmEx and/or PTS/CTS might be able to advise you how to proceed.]

WEhat happens when you google the company and the situation? In fact, who owns the website that you used? Note that the OLTA might be doing business under a variety of names.

Last edited by MSPeconomist; Jul 26, 19 at 12:05 am
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Old Jul 31, 19, 9:40 am
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Hey, so you can still file a chargeback as per Visa's rules.
Even though the transaction date may be outside of the 120 day time frame, your date of stay still has not passed.
You can use the date that HotelPower.com notified you that the reservation was canceled as a 'Date of Discovery' to put you back within Visa's timeframes to submit a chargeback.
I would contact your financial institution and have them help you file a Services Not Received claim.
They will likely require you to send a copy of the email/letter from HotelPower.com to substantiate the claim, but you should be good.
If you financial institution tells you that they can't file a chargeback, they're wrong. Visa's dispute rules can be found online via Visaonline.com
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Old Jul 31, 19, 12:38 pm
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Wow, thanks for all the feedback everyone, I a submitted rhe claim already and haven't heard anything back after reaching out a few times for a status update.

The site seems to still be happily accepting new reservations despite “massive fraud”. This is obviously just part of how they do business.

Thanks. FT community!
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Old Aug 6, 19, 2:48 pm
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I have a similar story. I booked a prrepaid stay on HotelPower in Dec 2018 (as routed by Trip Advisor) and got the exact same letter as OP received (but in the post) and I called the hotel on 23rd July (i got the letter the previous day). The hotel said that the reservation was fine and everything was good. I was relieved.
I travelled to my destination in Canada on 31st July and find that the reservation was cancelled. Apparently, these A$$holes at Hotel Power cancelled the reservation on 23rd July (which was the last day to cancel without penalty and must have cancelled during the day as it was active and fine in the morning when i called).
I have put a Charge back with Visa the next day and they were quite sympathetic and have provided a temp refund and promised a complete refund once investigation is completed.

The modus operandi seems to be to get prepaid amounts from Customers for a stay long in the future but actually booking refundable stays with the hotel. That way the Reservation can be cancelled in the future and HotelPower does not have to pay anything to the hotel.
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Old Aug 10, 19, 12:00 pm
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This sounds like outright fraud, but I'm surprised that the hotel didn't note the reservation when you called so that it could not have been cancelled so easily and without notifying you.

Did you ultimately stay at the hotel and if so, at what rate?

OTOH, it's not uncommon for an OLTA to have a policy that all of their plane tickets are nonrefundable/unchangeable regardless of the airline's fare rules, so an OLTA doing hotel reservations could certainly just declare that all of their reservations are nonrefundable. This would save them from having to provide customer service when people want to make changes.
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