RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOV) -- Police in Richmond Heights are investigating a reported theft that began with a phone call. A guest at the Homewood Suites on Clayton Road told police that on October 6th, she took a call from someone claiming to work at the front desk. The caller told the guest that there was a problem with the hotel's computer system and that the hotel needed the guest's credit card number to complete the check-in process.
The guest told police that she complied and gave the number to the caller, believing that he was calling from the front desk. Later, she discovered a nearly $800 charge to her credit card. The money appeared to be used to make wire transfers.
Police say they are still investigating where the call came from. The hotel told police that no one at the front desk contacted the guest.
Police won't give too many other investigative details, but News 4 research shows this has happened before and the calls usually come in the middle of the night, when the hotel guest is less alert and not likely to ask too many questions.
According to a warning published by the Better Business Bureau late last year, a hotel guest in Memphis first alerted the BBB about the scam.
The BBB says the thieves are very convincing and may even offer a discount on the room for the inconvenience of the late night call. Often, the thief will create a false sense of urgency by saying that the credit card information is needed before an audit - which is happening in a few minutes.
Now that you know about these calls, here's what you do to protect yourself: don't give out your number over the phone, hang up and call the front desk back yourself, or go down to the front desk and speak to someone in person.
News 4 contacted the Homewood Suites in Richmond Heights and was told that the hotel had "no comment".
The Hilton group also has not responded. It's still not clear how the caller would have been able to reach rooms directly, without talking to someone at the front desk.
Credit card companies often take a hit in cases like this. News 4 reached out to MasterCard who said that it's important for customers to understand notification policies and know that businesses generally don't call customers for sensitive information or payments.