Spring Break Is Nearly Here: eCommerce Guidelines for Vacationers

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How Spring Break Travelers Can Secure Safe, Fraud-Free Travel Arrangements on the Internet

It’s wiser to wait until you return home before posting photos – because nothing will ruin a vacation like returning to a burglarized house.

Following the cold, blistery months of December, January and February, millions of Americans are anxiously awaiting March 20, 2017 – the first official day of spring.

For with spring comes another American tradition: traveling somewhere warm and sunny for spring break.

The tradition began in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until author Glendon Swarthout’s classic novel, Where the Boys Are, that spring break became a permanent part of the American lexicon. Swarthout’s fictional account of college students vacationing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was a national best-seller, and was later adapted into a 1960 movie for MGM.

But it’s not just college students who will be enjoying spring break festivities: In 2017, 61 percent of vacationers will be families traveling with a spouse and/or children. What was once a college-aged rite-of-passage has become family-fun for Americans of every conceivable age, profession and demographic.

In celebration of the upcoming spring break festivities, eConsumer Services, a national organization that mediates credit card disputes between merchants and consumers, has prepared the following advice for spring breakers (young and old!) who will be formalizing their travel plans over the Internet:

1.    NEVER secure travel accommodations at a website with an http URL: “Only make purchases on websites that are https,” advised Monica Eaton-Cardone, the cofounder of eConsumer Services. “The “s” indicates a higher level of security. Nowadays, all reputable eCommerce sites are https, including the major airlines and national hotel chains. If you receive an email solicitation to use at a website that’s http, be extra careful. It could be a scam.”

2.    AVOID using a debit card for online purchases: “A surprising number of people still shop online with debit cards,” said Eaton-Cardone. “That’s a huge mistake. If you’re the victim of fraud, a debit card offers scant protection. Credit cards protect you far more comprehensively. In certain situations, a debit card can cost you everything in your bank account. So be smart, and when you purchase airline tickets, rent a car, or book a hotel room, use a credit card.”

3.    When you shop on your smartphone, NEVER use public Wi-Fi: “Mobile commerce is exploding in popularity,” said Eaton-Cardone. “There’s roughly a 50-50 percent split between those who shop on tablets and desktops, and those who shop on smartphones. In fact, smartphones are the go-to device for last-minute travelers, particularly men. The problem is, many smartphones are configured to automatically sync with available Wi-Fi networks, to limit data overages. Lots of hotels and airports use unsecured Wi-Fi’s. This can lead to disaster, because transmitting financial data can lead to your account getting swiped. Your private information might be compromised – and you won’t even know it. Never use a public Wi-Fi to transmit sensitive information.”

4.    BEWARE of “fake” online stores: “During the first few weeks of March, you might receive highly-tempting emails from travel sites that promise amazing savings,” noted Eaton-Cardone. “Some of these emails could even appear to come from reputable, trustworthy companies. But beware: Fraudsters will design email offers and create fake websites that look very similar to legitimate stores. They do this to ‘phish’ for your financial information, so they can steal from your bank account. Consumers should proceed with caution and use common sense: Is the URL misspelled? When you Google the site and/or the offer, are people warning you of fraud? Are the images low-resolution? Does the verbiage include spelling errors and grammatical mistakes? Is the offer too good to be true? And is it a website that you’ve never visited before? These are the telltale signs of a fake online store. Delete the email, and do not submit your financial information. It isn’t worth the risk.”

5.    WAIT until you return home before sharing vacation photos on Facebook or Twitter: “We love to share family photos of exotic destinations with our friends on social media,” said Eaton-Cardone. “Many vacationers will immediately upload images from hotels, airports and beautiful beaches, giving minute-by-minute updates of their trip. But depending on your privacy settings, you could be announcing to the entire world that your home is unoccupied. Criminals specifically look for empty residences to burglarize. Some social media sites, like Twitter, can automatically list the city or country you’re tweeting from. It’s wiser to wait until you return home before posting photos – because nothing will ruin a vacation like returning to a burglarized house.”

For interview opportunities with eConsumer Services cofounder Monica Eaton-Cardone about travel, public policy and/or cyber-fraud, please contact Scott Pinsker at s.pinsker(at)chargebacks911(dot)com or 727.871.3204.

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About eConsumer Services: eConsumer Services is a division of Global Risk Technologies, a leading provider of dynamic risk management solutions for the international payment industry. With a range of services targeted to merchants, banks and consumers, Global Risk Technologies manages over 200 million transactions worldwide each month and has offices in Europe and the United States. eConsumer Services mediates credit card transaction disputes between consumers and merchants. The firm helps consumers quickly resolve customer service issues and secure a refund or replacement with minimal time and effort, and at little to no cost. Merchants, issuing banks and credit card companies also benefit from eConsumer Services’ dispute mediation expertise by avoiding costly chargebacks and freeing up internal resources. To learn more, visit http://www.econsumerservices.com.

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