Criminals who distribute bogus leaflets for non-existent pizza joints in an effort to solicit tourists' credit card numbers are operating unchecked in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
How the pizza flier scam works
Travelers who are tired after a day of sightseeing return to their hotel room and will call to order a pizza upon finding the flyer. The nice person on the other end of the line gets your credit or debit card number and says your pizza will be delivered shortly. Then they take that info and instantly start using your card number around the world as part of a criminal ring.
The Florida legislature had considered banning pizza leafleting because it was hitting tourists so hard. But they ultimately decided that was too much interference in the free market and opted against it.
Yet I recently read that an investigative reporter for Detroit's WXYZ-TV was in Orlando for a TV conference when he ran across this scam. The reporter almost fell prey to this ploy, but fortunately he had the foresight to ask someone at the front desk if the pizza leaflets were legit.
So while you're on the road, I want you to beware of flyers on the door or under the door. Don't let your guard down and assume it's legitimate. Call the front desk to verify, or better yet, ask them for recommendations about legit restaurants. Or use your smartphone (or a computer) to visit Yelp.com, Kudzu.com or other local review services to check out the alleged restaurant.
By doing that, you solve the munchies and you avoid having to spend all night on the phone with your credit card company trying to shut down your account before the criminals spend more of your money!
New variation of front desk scam
There's also a newer scam I'm starting to hear about that I want to be sure you're aware of. In this one, you check into a hotel, get up to your room and get a call from the front desk saying there's been a problem with your credit card. You're told the charge didn't go through and they need to confirm your number with you.
The only problem is it's not the front desk calling. It's a criminal who just dialed in and asked to be transferred to such-and-such room number. If you fall for the ploy, next thing you know there are fraudulent charges being pushed through on your card by the criminals.
If you get this call, tell the person you'll come back down to the front desk in a moment to discuss the credit card trouble. That way you can handle a legitimate request if it is one and you can also deny the criminals on the phone the info they want!
Want more scam-avoiding advice? See our Scams & Ripoffs section.