By Aparna Zalani | CBS 11 Special Project's Producer


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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was an elaborate scheme to hook scholars and intellectuals around the world.

Kadija Khan, a PhD student studying Gender Inequality and Human Rights in Pakistan became an unwitting victim.

“I was really keen to attend this conference,” she told CBS11 News via Skype.

A colleague referred her to the conference on gender inequality to be held in Dallas in October. “My supervisor advised me that you will meet a lot of scholars.”

Khan said the event was listed on this website purpleroyalhotel.com. She thought everything looked very professional and things checked out. She began an email exchange with the contact on the website. The person told her she can attend the conference for free if she booked a hotel room. So, Khan says she booked a room.

She paid $560 for a 7-night stay. But when the hotel asked for more money to help with other travel costs, Ms. Khan became suspicious. When she demanded a refund, the hotel stopped communicating.

The hotel website says it is located at an address in Vickery Meadow. When CBS11 went to the address, it brought us to Dallas City’s sanitation department.

Phylissia Landix with the Better Business Bureau in Dallas said a simple Google search might have helped identifying fraud.

“This scam appears to be brand new to Dallas,” she said. BBB has since alerted the authorities.

CBS11 tried to reach out to Purple Royal Hotel for comment; called and emailed several times. But no one returned the station’s calls.

Meanwhile the list of alleged victims has grown to three.

The BBB says there is another website, which it says has similar modus operandi — mabelroyalhotel.com.

CBS11 tried to look for it at the address listed on the website but the place appears to be a storage room.

Ms. Khan admitted to getting schooled herself. swapping a trip of a lifetime for a life lesson instead. She wants to help others by telling her story.

“That was very disappointing, and not a good feeling. Very bad feeling,” she said.

The BBB said there are some things people should watch out for when booking hotel rooms. Specifically, be on the lookout for bad grammar and spelling errors. Try paying with a credit card when you can. Also, look for online reviews or complaints against the hotel.

If you suspect fraud, you can find out who hosts the website and the name it is registered  by clicking here.

Sometimes it will have a name or an email address which you can use to contact them.