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July 8, 2011

Top 10 “Safe” Online Singles Travel Shopping Tips

The convenience, ease and availability of options for shopping online when searching for a singles vacation should not replace good old fashioned common sense and a bit of new wisdom. Online shopping has its own set of risks and taking steps to avoid the fraud online will result in a much happier experience for everyone except of course for scammers and hackers.

Following are the “Top 10 Online Singles Travel Shopping Tips” to help fight unscrupulous online retailers, scammers and hackers:
1. Protect your computer– A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.
2. Shop on trustworthy websites– Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid. Then confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.
3. Protect your personal information– take the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission. Don’t email your financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number.
4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true– Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard to get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end. Know exactly what you’re buying. Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like “included,” “optional,” or “at your own expense” are terms that will define inclusive features of a tour.
5. Beware of phishing– Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an email, pick up the phone and call the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.
6. Confirm your online purchase is secure– Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and to the right of that, the “lock” symbol before paying. In addition, some companies have extended validation and a green bar appears in the address bar when you hit a secure page. At any time, click on the “Lock” to read more about the site’s owner and certification details. Finally, right clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties” to see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.
7. Pay with a credit card-It’s best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
8. Keep documentation of your order– After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail. Save a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
9. Check your credit card statements often– Don’t wait for paper statements; check your credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
10. Know your rights– There is not a general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject a purchase before travel if the vacation was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund of credit. If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly with the seller, buyer or site operator. If that doesn’t work, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint, your state Attorney General, using contact information at naag.org, your county or state consumer protection agency (consumeraction.gov and look under “Where to File a Complaint) and the Better Business Bureau.

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