The restaurant industry is currently grappling with a new scam specifically targeted at people looking to make online reservations. Hackers have set their sights on exploiting OpenTable, a widely used service that includes nearly 60,000 restaurants around the globe. The scammers are using OpenTable to illicitly obtain information from those who use the service.
OpenTable is an online restaurant reservation service that allows you to search for and book reservations at various restaurants online without having to call the restaurant directly. You can use the filters to adjust the date, time, and number of people included in your reservation, as well as any other specific filters included with the restaurant you're attending, such as if you prefer to have a table inside or outside.
The service is accessible through the OpenTable website and the OpenTable mobile app, which is available for download on iOS and Android devices. You can browse restaurants, view menus, read reviews, and make reservations directly through the platform.
iPhone: 3.8 stars (at the time of publishing)
Android: 4.7 stars (at the time of publishing)
Once you've completed all the details for your reservation, the website will ask you for some personal information like your name, email address, and phone number. This information is only asked so that the restaurant has a way to contact you should something change with your reservation. However, depending on the restaurant's policies, it will typically not ask you to give over credit card details to finalize the reservation. This is where the scammers come in.
Scammers have been calling people and pretending to be from the restaurant where a reservation has been made to "confirm" the details. And with that confirmation, the scammer will also tell the victim that it is required for them to give over their credit card details to keep their reservation spot.
Once they have the card details, they will then call again and pretend to be from your bank. They'll tell the victim that there has been "unusual activity" with their credit card that can only be stopped by authorizing a purchase from your bank's mobile app. Many victims will panic and authorize the transaction before they realize it's a scam, and now the criminal has full access to use your card.
Some of this is stemming from a data breach that has affected OpenTable and some other reservation websites. The scammers have been accessing the information on these sites, including people's names, emails, and phone numbers, which is what has been allowing them to call so many people and trick them.
Another way the scammers get this information is by calling restaurants pretending to work for OpenTable and asking for their login credentials. Then, they use those credentials to access the restaurant’s account and call customers with reservations pretending to be from the restaurant. They ask for their credit card details to take or refund a deposit for their bookings and then use those details to make unauthorized transactions.
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There are a few steps you can take to avoid falling for this scam, even if you're someone who uses online reservation services often. Here are some of my tips for avoiding this scam.
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the restaurant you made a reservation at or from your bank and they're asking for credit card information, hang up the phone. There is no reason for a restaurant to have your credit card information unless they have a policy about charging people for last-minute cancellations. Even so, you should hang up and call the restaurant back yourself using their official phone number to confirm if this is a real policy or not.
You should never authorize any purchases to be made through your banking app or credit card that you did not make yourself. If you see any suspicious transactions come up, call your bank or credit card company immediately and have them walk you through the steps to fix it.
OpenTable has sent out a mass alert to all its users to warn them about these scams that have been going around. They urge people to notify them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org in case they receive any suspicious phone calls claiming to be from restaurants.
Since many people's personal information was exposed from this data breach with reservation websites, it's best for you to know how to protect yourself should your information ever get exposed. Identity Theft protection companies can monitor personal information like your Home title, Social Security Number (SSN), phone number, and email address and alert you if it is being sold on the dark web or being used to open an account. They can also assist you in freezing your bank and credit card accounts to prevent further unauthorized use by criminals.
One of the best parts of using some services is that they might include identity theft insurance of up to 1 million dollars to cover losses and legal fees and a white glove fraud resolution team where a U.S.-based case manager helps you recover any losses.
See my tips and best picks on how to protect yourself from identity theft by visiting CyberGuy.com/IdentityTheft
Making reservations at local restaurants should be a hassle-free experience However, the unfortunate reality is that even something as simple as reserving a table now requires an additional concern. It's important to remain vigilant when using online reservation services like OpenTable to safeguard against scams. Remember to heed my advice, stay alert, and maintain a cautious mindset throughout the process, regardless of how straightforward it may seem.
Do you think reservation websites should up their security measures from now on? Should restaurants stop using third-party websites to keep track of their reservations? Let us know by writing us at CyberGuy.com/Contact
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