Fake hotel website fraudsters arrested
Burak Coşan - MUĞLA
A swindling crime ring made $90,000 by collecting money through fake hotel websites, it has been revealed after a police operation in which 11 suspects were detained in the touristic southwestern Muğla province.
“Tourism establishments have been under threat from cyber-gangs in recent years. We have reported the situation to the provincial police directorate in Muğla. The operation took nearly one year,” said Tunç Batum, vice president of the South Aegean Touristic Hoteliers and Operators Association.
“At the end of the operation 11 people were brought to court. Two of them were arrested. Another gang member is sought in the Netherlands,” he added.
The websites of more than 10 hotels in Muğla were duplicated by the gang members, who received online payments of almost 500,000 Turkish Liras ($90,000) from holidaymakers, according to Batum.
The hotel of which Batum is the general manager, Hilton Dalaman Sarıgerme, was involved in the case.
“Most of the defrauded people will be able to get their money back because the gang’s accounts were frozen,” said Batum.
“The fake websites appear on top of the search pages due to advertisements. We have notified the search engine administrators many times, but it is not possible to say that they have taken the necessary measures,” he said.
Informatics expert and lawyer Mehmet Ali Köksal has warned holidaymakers to check the exact domain names of the hotels carefully before making payments.
“This method [of defraud] is called phishing,” he said, adding that customers should not hesitate to phone the hotels in case of suspicion.