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Trinidadian man cries foul

UWI Professor accuses MoBay hotel of credit card hanky panky; hotel denies allegations

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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A Trinidadian man is accusing staff at a popular hotel in Montego Bay, St James of fraud, after his credit card statement reflected a point-of-sale transaction he is insisting he did not make while staying at the hotel for the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP) annual conference.

Ramesh Deosaran, Professor of Criminology and Public Safety at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, in an email to the Jamaica Observer, said that he was invited to chair a panel at the 33rd annual conference, where he also made a presentation.

“I was invited by the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police to chair a panel on crime and violence in the Caribbean and also to present a paper on policing and organised crime — both of which were accomplished.

“I checked in the [hotel] on April 30, 2018 and departed on May 4, 2018 using my Visa credit card for the registration but [days] before registration, I was told by the hotel reservation clerk (name omitted) that I must supply, via e-mail, my credit card number and also the security code at the back of the card. I supplied this and other registration information by e-mail in order to reserve the room,” Deosaran said.

The professor said when he arrived at the hotel to check in, his credit card was taken from him and the registration process took “a relatively long time”.

“She (clerk) took the card with her to the office (closed) at the back of the registration/reception counter. She did this several times, with long delays and with my credit card in her continued possession. Such possession and delays did worry me.

“On July 5, 2018, I received my Republic Bank Visa card statement (enclosed) when I noted that the sum of US$896.26 was drawn on my account on May 1, 2018 for 'Agoda Hotel Reservation Budapest, Hungary'. That is the very next day after my registration.

“This was shocking. I know nothing about this transaction, except that it was fraudulent. On July 3, 2018 I quickly informed the Republic Visa Credit Card Centre in Port of Spain of the fraud. My bank is Republic Bank, Valpark, Curepe, Trinidad,” Deosaran said.

The Sunday Observer contacted the hotel in question about the matter but was told by the resort's public relations department that contacting customers beforehand for their credit card numbers is not a part of the hotel's policy.

Added to that, the Sunday Observer was told that the person Deosaran said he interacted with prior to his stay at the hotel does not work there. The hotel also said it has no record of the professor staying there, having searched its database.

“Have Mr Deosaran e-mail us to make a formal report,” the Sunday Observer was told, by a woman who declined to be identified.

The professor e-mailed copies of the confirmation letter he received as well as receipts for his stay at the resort to the Sunday Observer. He also forwarded the e-mail conversation he said he had with the alleged hotel clerk. The e-mail address for the hotel that he used to communicate with them was the same e-mail address given to the Sunday Observer by the hotel. The Sunday Observer has learnt that the hotel, despite denying that it asks for customers' credit card information, did in fact ask Deosaran for a copy of his in the confirmation letter they sent him.

“They must have deleted the records having done what they did,” the former chairman of the Police Service Commission and Independent Senator in the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, said.

In his July 9 report to Commissioner of Police Antony Anderson, who himself has been a victim of credit card fraud, Deosaran asked that an investigation be launched into the matter. He said, however, that the commissioner is yet to respond to his report.

“Commissioner, I now with respect and deep concern, submit this report in the hope that you will conduct the investigation as you find necessary. I will also be very grateful if you can acknowledge this report. Please let me know if you require any further details,” he said in the report.

At the same time, the professor warned credit card holders to be careful when conducting transactions.

“This incident should be used as a warning for credit card holders who are asked by hotels, stores, etc, to give their credit card number as well as the three-digit security code at the back of the card. As indicated in the report to Commissioner Anderson, giving the security code is a dangerous risk for consumers. Also, consumers should not let their credit card go out of sight during the transaction,” he told the Sunday Observer.

When contacted, Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Corporate Communication's Unit Inspector Dahlia Garrick asked that an e-mail be sent to her with the information from Deosaran, noting that an investigation can only take place when the matter is fully understood.

Deosaran said he has also reported the matter to the police in Trinidad and Tobago.

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