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Fradulent Activity Targeting Hotels—A Case Study

MARIN_HI
Fraudulent Activity Targeting Hotels—A Case Study

By Pat Mitchell, senior vice president, Marin Management, Inc.

Published by CLIA Alert, July 2014

Marin Management, Inc. hotels have been receiving fraudulent calls by persons claiming to be PG&E service agents. They purport to be in the process of disconnecting utilities and they provide fraudulent telephone numbers to victim hotels to call to avoid an interruption in service. Once this number is called, the “service department” agent demands immediate payment by wire transfer and apologizes for having posted prior payments to wrong accounts. They further delude the hotel by stating that the next bill will reflect a discount for the trouble.

If the service numbers provided are Googled they will reflect inaccurate numbers, however the prefixes are very similar to those of the utility company.

When we discussed this at our recent monthly general manager’s conference call we learned that these calls have also been received from individuals claiming to be with AT&T and Comcast.

The following is a detailed account of what occurred by John Doe (name has been changed), the general manager of one of our full service hotels.

Friday, July 8, 2016, 1:45 P. M., the switchboard receives a call from a man saying he is with PG&E and our account has been red flagged for immediate service interruption. The caller was immediately transferred to the general manager, John Doe. Mr. Doe took the call, the caller identified himself as Jason August. He claimed our PG&E account was on red flag status and he was in-route to suspend our service. He provided reference number, 35940034 and phone number (800) 380-1822. He instructed Mr. Doe to contact PG&E immediately and provide the reference number.

Mr. Doe called the number and spoke with Anthony Carson, who also identified himself as a PG&E representative. While on hold, actual PG&E recordings were playing. Mr. Doe immediately informed Mr. Carson that our account was current and obviously PG&E was in error. Ultimately, Mr. Carson agreed that PG&E was in error. Apparently, PG&E applied the payment incorrectly, therefore, our account was in jeopardy. Mr. Doe, now extremely agitated informed Mr. Carson to fix the problem and assure him the account was in good standing and not subject to shut off. Mr. Carson apologized, saying he would apply a 40% discount on our next statement. He provided case #4955B115RD5909025 as reference for the 40% discount. He went on to say it was impossible for him to correct the billing error. Mr. Doe was transferred to Anthony Carson in upper management. Mr. Carson claimed that he was unable to correct the billing error and unfortunately, it was impossible to stop the service interruption, unless a cash payment of $988.00 (plus a $20.00 service fee) was paid immediately. Mr. Doe was instructed to make the cash payment at CVS Pharmacy, 1193 Admiral Callaghan Lane, Vallejo. Upon arriving at CVS, Mr. Smith was to call (800) 380-1822, Ext. 1822 and detailed instructions would be provided on how to complete the payment process.

Mr. Doe immediately reached out to his PG&E contacts and was informed the call he received was fraudulent.

I hope this may be helpful to all CLIA members.

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