ORLANDO, Fla. - The fliers are high-gloss, full-color pictures of delicious-looking pizza and pasta dishes, but that's as close as you'll come to getting your mouth around it.
Central Florida's Hotel and Lodging Association president said most of the fliers that are slipped under the doors of motel and hotel rooms across the tourist district of Orlando are delivered by scam artists looking to cash in on your hunger.
Richard Maladecki of the CFHLA said scam artists pay people to sneak around hotels on and off Disney property, usually at night, and shove the fliers under guests' doors. They hide the fliers in backpacks.
Local 6 recently obtained two fliers from two different hotels with the same phone number and restaurant name but no address.
One hotel guest who stayed at Disney World's Saratoga Springs Resort told Local 6 she heard rattling and rustling at her door around 1:30 a.m. She said eventually a pizza flier was slipped under the door. Another guest who stayed at the Comfort Inn Maingate on 192 in Kissimmee also received a flier there.
Internet searches show no record of the restaurant listed on the flier and Local 6 called the number and got a voicemail announcing the T-Mobile mailbox was full.
Maladecki said scammers often use pre-paid cellphones and change the phone numbers on the fliers every week.
"We've been fighting this for years in Tallahassee," said Maladecki.
In 2011, state lawmakers passed a law called the Tourist Safety Act that increases fines especially for second and third offenses and changed the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. The law also allows law enforcement to arrest offenders without having seen the distribution of the flier, rather relying on witnesses like hotel staff.
"We've made a significant dent in the last few years," said Maladecki. He credits alert law enforcement and hotel staff, including housekeeping and front desk staff. He said the law, in cooperation with law enforcement, has helped, but the latest fliers turning up show that scam artists are back at it.
Orange County sheriff's deputies told Local 6 they have seen a few cases recently.
A Disney World spokesperson said law enforcement is always involved when there are complaints of flier distribution and offenders are trespassed from the property.
Maladecki said sometimes the phone numbers lead to shady, unlicensed pizza places that are stealthily trying to advertise, but often the person on the other end of the phone has nothing to do with any restaurant. The scammer will take your credit card or debit card information and use it to make purchases or drain your bank account, even stealing your identity.
Maladecki said the people distributing the fliers often use the opportunity to check for unlocked hotel room or car doors and steal the valuables inside.
Using a credit card when ordering from restaurants typically protects you more than using a debit card because most credit card companies let you refute a questionable charge.
Ultimately, if you're not sure if a restaurant is legitimate, don't place an order.
"Most properties have a preferred vendor list," said Maladecki.
You can find that list at the front desk of any hotel or by asking the concierge for dining recommendations.
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