Pizza con targets travelers' dough

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You checked into your hotel late in the evening and your stomach is growling.

You call the phone number on the flyer conveniently slipped under your door, give the order taker your credit card number and wait impatiently for your pizza.

The one that never arrives.

Turns out that instead of connecting with a pizza shop, the number on the delivery menu rings a thief, who uses the caller’s credit card number to do some ordering of his own.

The Pizza Scam, as it’s often known, is one of the newest swindles targeting unsuspecting travelers, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

With the peak travel season about to kick off, the AG’s office issued a warning about some common cons aimed at fleecing vacationers, plus tips on how to avoid them.

In the case of the Pizza Scam, the agency recommends consumers check with the front desk for reputable take-out ideas, instead of relying on flyers that anyone can tuck under the door. Alternatively, insist on paying in cash when the delivery person shows up.

Among other types of scams to watch out for:

• Where’s My Bag? — This swindle, also on the rise, takes advantage of the often chaotic rush to the airport or other destination. It involves a cab driver who insists on unloading the passengers’ luggage.

“The cabbie then tells the passengers that he is in a rush, slams the trunk and speeds away,” the AG’s office said. Only later do the travelers notice one of their bags is missing.

Passengers can help protect themselves by watching their luggage closely or keeping their bags next to them in the seat. It also helps to jot down the driver’s name and cab number when entering the vehicle in case of a claim.

• Wake-up call. — The nightstand telephone rings in the middle of the night. The caller, a thief claiming to be from the front desk and hoping for a groggy guest, wants to verify credit card information because of a computer glitch.

“The front desk will never call you in the middle of the night to verify credit card numbers,” the attorney general’s office said. “Hang up, and call the front desk directly with any questions.”

• Wi worry. — While it may be convenient to use free public Wi-Fi to check a credit card or bank account while on the road, doing so puts sensitive personal data at risk.

“Scammers can give Wi-Fi hotspots a similar or identical name to a hotel or coffee shop’s actual hotspot and wait for people to log on,” the AG’s office said.

“From there, anything the unsuspecting user does — such as access a bank account — is easily spied upon.”

A recent Harris Poll commissioned by the security technology company Private Communications Corp. found that a large percentage of people who used public Wi-Fi — some 40 percent — said they had used it to access or transmit sensitive personal information.

The most common way people exposed their personal data was by accessing a bank account. Some other ways included paying bills and sending emails containing a Social Security number.

Consumers who think they’ve been victimized by a travel scam should file a complaint with the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555 or visiting www.attorneygeneral.gov.

While the bureau doesn’t help individuals recover stolen items, it uses complaints to identify patterns of abuse so it can issue warnings and refer cases for possible legal action.


Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.

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