Cybercriminals have hijacked hospitality listings on Google services, in particular Google+ Local, and have replaced original links in an effort to drive traffic to two hotel booking websites, Search Engine Land reported.
The hijacked listings use links that lead to either RoomsToBook.Info or RoomsToBook.Net. When users search these domains on Google+ Local listings, it becomes apparent that thousands of hotels were affected.
The spam campaign replaced genuine website links on Google+ listings for Hilton, Holiday Inn and Marriott hotels, along with many others, to the two aforementioned domains. Those domains were redirecting users to a booking website called hotelswhiz.com. Hotelswhiz.com claims to be a part of ian.com, which redirects traffic to a website owned by travel site Expedia stating its affiliate marketing project – Expedia Affiliate Network. The project is paying a commission to websites who integrate the inventory of hotel listings from Expedia into their websites in an effort to sell more bookings.
Affiliate marketing projects and those who participate in them need to be cautious with spammers, as they sign up for those projects in order to make commissions from allocating traffic.
Search Engine Land made a phone call to one of the numbers listed in the public information for HotelsWhiz.com, and a woman from a Philippines call centre answered, stating that she worked for i-lotel.com – a website that does not even exist. Google commented that it is aware of the spam campaign and is working to fix the problem, while Expedia could not be reached for comment.