How to Check for Hidden Cameras in Your Hotel Room or Vacation Rental

March 19, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

It doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it rarely happens at all — not enough to make us stop traveling. Still, you hear the occasional story about hidden cameras being found in a hotel room, vacation rental, office space, or Airbnb rental.

So while you don’t have to panic that you’re being spied upon wherever you go, it doesn’t hurt to be a little vigilant when you stay somewhere new.

Smarter Travel lists three methods for checking for hidden cameras, as suggested by “The Monk,” a technical surveillance countermeasures and intelligence expert from Advanced Operational Concepts who goes by the anonymous moniker. Here’s his advice.

There are essentially three primary methods for checking for a hidden camera.

  1. Scanning of radio frequencies (RF)
  2. Lens detection
  3. Physical search

Most of the equipment costs less than $100 and are available in the commercial market. But The Monk warns that none of them are 100% accurate.

Each have pros and cons, too. For example, RF scanning only helps in identifying a device if that device is actively transmitting. If it stores data on a card and is recovered later, the RF scanner is fairly useless.

Hidden cameras are very rare, but it still helps to know how to look for them.Lens detection is very effective, if used properly. If you are too far from the lens, sweep the room too quickly, or are just standing at the wrong angle from the lens, then you’ll likely miss seeing the lens when it reflects the light from your own light source.

According to The Monk, the most thorough method is physical inspection which requires patience and access — prying open smoke detectors, opening the backs of paintings, and possibly opening a section of a wall to see if anything is inside. (This can be a problem if you’re in someone else’s house.)

A mix of the three is best.

“You may not be able to achieve 100 percent confidence that the space is clear of hidden devices, but you’ll be a lot closer than you were when you first walked into the room,” said The Monk.

Before you start searching, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what you’re looking for.

So, where should you look?

Thinking logically, what would someone be interested in capturing? Since a camera needs a clear view of the subject to get the sharpest image, a visual scan of the area will provide answers. Bathrooms, bedrooms, and offices are common targets. Areas where computer screens are visible for capturing passwords, banking information and other information. Most hidden cameras now are so small and prepackaged in common items that they don’t seem obvious. (Think cameras in stuffed animals used to watch activity in a child’s room).

Other hiding places include smoke detectors, alarm clocks, even electrical outlets and power strips.

However, The Monk cautions travelers to avoid descending into full paranoia.

“In hotel rooms, for example, if items continue to be placed in a particular location after a room is serviced, then that could be a sign that the item needs to be positioned that way so that a camera has a good angle of view. Of course, this could also just be the maid tidying up, so don’t immediately jump to full paranoia.”

What to Do if You Find a Hidden Camera

First of all, hiding hidden cameras in hotel rooms or vacation rentals is illegal. It’s also a violation of most rental companies’ policies, so be sure to check the vacation listing and policy if you find one.

If you do find a hidden camera in your vacation rental, leave immediately and report it to the company. If you’re staying in a hotel and find one, request an immediate room change. If that’s not possible, turn the objects you suspect toward the wall or cover them with a towel.

While protecting your privacy is smart, there is a caveat. Certain countries, like Russia and China frown upon such behavior. In places such as these, it is highly likely that hotels frequented by business travelers are monitored and tampering with such devices can be seen as problematic. If they know you’re looking for hidden devices, that not only makes them more suspicious, they may want to question you further, and could detain you for hours or days.

While we’re on the subject of security, certain models of our Platinum® Elite and Crew™ bags have RFID protected pockets that will store your passport and block it from rogue RFID scanners as a way to protect against loss and identity theft.

How concerned are you with hidden cameras in your hotel room or office? Have you ever found one or know someone who has? Share your stories with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Pexels.com (Creative Commons 0)

Eight Packable Items that Could Save Your Life

March 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

No one typically thinks to pack emergency preparedness items when planning a business trip or vacation. But making a few basic plans can help you be prepared for the worst that your destination can throw at you. So there’s one simple step that can help you be prepared: know the risks associated with your destination.

For starters, check out the FEMA app which provides tips on how to deal with disasters like earthquakes severe weather, wildfires, volcanoes, and terrorism.

Additionally, emergency experts suggest that when you’re at your destination, keep a pair of shoes and socks by your bed in case you need to leave the room in an emergency, such as a fire, so you can protect your feet from broken glass.

A recent article in Smarter Travel got us to thinking about taking precautions when we travel, and they shared eight items that could save your life while on the road.

A whistle may be loud and obnoxious, but that means it can provide personal safety if you’re walking alone or at night. It can also help rescuers find you. A “pealess” whistle is best—and provides maximum durability. Its high-pitched sound can be easier to detect than a human voice and it will work if anything impairs your ability to yell, like dehydration or crushing.

A keychain flashlight is one of the packable items that can help you out when you're in a tight spot.In the event of a power failure — natural disaster or not — a flashlight can provide a much-need light source. Choose a small, keychain-sized LED light with a long battery life. It’s ideal if you’re stuck in a subway, navigating poorly lit paths, camping, or even reading in bed while sharing a room. Plus it saves your cell phone battery in those non-emergency uses.

Speaking of a loss of electricity, bring along a battery backup charger. If the electricity fails, you can you can use it to keep your phone operable. You may not be able to make calls, but you’ll be able to have a spare flashlight, and access to emergency apps. On a brighter note, if there isn’t a power failure, bringing an extra charger means helping you stay connected (via apps, maps, social media, email, and phone) whenever your phone battery runs low.

Take a first-aid kit that includes the basics (bandages, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment). No matter where you’re headed, you’ll be prepared for blisters, scrapes, bug bites and other minor injuries.

A space blanket will not only provide warmth if the heating system fails, it can be resourceful if you need a place to rest during an overnight airport layover. On a brighter, shinier note, it can be a great makeshift picnic blanket.

A small, simple dust mask, like a surgical mask, is another “must have.” Not only do these small, stackable masks protect you from airborne particles, they can also prevent you from spreading your germs, too. (Or getting sick if you’re around a lot of sick people or have a weakened immune system.)

Take a bottle of water. Clean water is one of the most important things you can have with you. Having clean, accessible water can prevent dehydration and it can save you money by not buying a bottle for $4 when you’ve got no other options. Better yet, bring a reusable water bottle, and fill it each morning.

Finally, pack a few high protein snacks for energy or a quick snack if your blood sugar is low. Protein bars like Clif bars are heavy and dense, and can give you a quick boost. Tuck a couple into your briefcase, purse, or backpack and pull one out when you need it.

What are some of the must-have emergency items you take on trips? Did we miss anything? Or do you have a favorite make, model, or energy bar you don’t leave home without? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Wtshymanski (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Delta Air Lines to Ditch Zone Boarding in 2019

March 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Delta Air Lines passengers will soon find boarding their aircraft done in a different way that’s supposed to cut down on confusion, speed up the boarding process, and best of all, stop everyone from crowding around the gate 10 minutes before their section is called.

According to a recent USA Today article, the airline now boards passengers by ticket type, and not by its long-standing zone method. Changes went into effect on January 23 on flights and were created to reduce pre-boarding stress for flyers.

United Airlines switched to a similar process last fall for the same reason.

Delta's new color-coded boarding chart eliminates their zone boarding“Every customer values consistency and a sense of knowing what to expect when they’re traveling,” said Tim Mapes, Delta’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, said in a company news release. “We have been listening to our customers about the stress they often feel at the gate before boarding, and implementing small changes for years. This latest enhancement further refines how Delta’s process works and is designed to better link the Delta product they purchased to differentiated experiences throughout their journey.”

The new, color-coded process required renaming boarding groups and will increase the number of those groups.

First in will be the pre-boarders. Then Delta One suites. First Class will be next. Travelers who pay for upgrades or are upgraded to Delta’s Comfort Plus board next. The Atlanta-based airline said the addition of Comfort Plus boarding was recommended by gate agents to reduce crowding at the gate. A two-month test in Atlanta proved positive, and so they made it the new standard.

Travelers with platinum or gold medallion status in Delta’s Sky Miles program will be known as the new Sky Priority boarding group and will follow Comfort Plus passengers on board. Those with seats in the main cabin will board according to their number. Delta’s lowest frequent flier tier, silver and certain credit card holders will board with the Main Cabin 1 group. Last but not least, Delta’s no-frill basic economy fare will board last.

Delta's new color-coded boarding chart

Have you tried out the new Delta boarding method or any other airline’s method? What did you think? How do you think this will help reduce congestion and crowding at the gates? Share your thoughts and experiences on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Source: Delta.com

The Ever-Growing Bleisure Travel Market

March 5, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

With so many business travelers adding leisure time to trips, bleisure travel is now a major part of the travel industry. And there are many lucrative possibilities, according to a recent article in Travel Weekly.

Travel advisors say bleisure travel is a growing market with growing profits, and Travel Weekly calls the sales potential “enticing.”

“In a recent survey of business professionals age 25 to 35 years old,” said the article, “Hilton Hotels & Resorts found that nearly 70 percent of respondents said they have a desire to extend their work trips for leisure purposes.”

In fact, according to a 2018 Bleisure Trends Report by Egencia, 68 percent of travelers mix business with pleasure 1 – 3 times a year. Moreover, the report said that 74 percent of business travelers are considering a bleisure trip over the next six months.

Enticing indeed!

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it's especially fun if you're near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it’s especially fun if you’re near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

Getting employers onboard with bleisure travel isn’t always easy though. Employers and their travel policies are not always amenable to travelers tacking on a few days of fun, although that perception is changing. Dave Hershberger, president of Prestige Travel Leaders in Cincinnati, Ohio, said that corporate support is growing for the practice.

“We have seen bleisure travel grow mainly because more corporations are not only allowing it, but are also embracing it,” said Hershberger. “Corporate support — to meet the employee demand — is what’s driving the growth rate.”

Maurice Honor, Vice President of Travel Distribution Sales for Hertz, said that bleisure travel means people want a better work/life balance, and that balance is a big selling point for companies to support it.

So what’s driving the increased desire for bleisure travel among the travelers themselves?

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a big reason, said Leah Kirgis, manager of leisure travel at Cadence in La Jolla, California. People want to experience the culture and unexpected things in locations.

But it’s also the personal appeal of the destination. Imagine, if you’re traveling to New Zealand, Hawaii, Europe, or Canada, would you want to just zip in and out long enough for your sales meeting or conference? This could be the only time you get to visit that destination, so doesn’t it make sense to experience a little of the culture and scenery?

Bottom line is whether the employee can create memories that will last a lifetime, and whether their company will allow it. If you’re on the fence about whether you should allow bleisure travel in your own company, we highly recommend it. It makes your employees happy and the quality of their work will increase.

Do you take bleisure trips on your business travel? Does your company allow bleisure travel as part of its regular travel policies? Share your experiences on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Used with permission)

The Benefits of Softside luggage vs Hardside luggage

February 26, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re trying to decide between hardside and softside luggage, it can be a tough choice. There are pros and cons to each depending on what kind of traveling you do and which feature sets are important to you.

To start, let’s just say that we’re bigger fans of softside luggage. Most of our luggage lines are softside, although we do offer a few models of hardside bags. (And I’ll even admit to wanting one of those brushed aluminum briefcases when I was a kid because they looked so cool.) We’ve found that more people want softside bags and we have followed the market demands.

Here are a few differences between the two styles:

The Maxlite 5 21" spinner, our lightest softside luggage.

The Maxlite 5 21″ spinner, our lightest softside luggage.

First, softside luggage is usually lighter than the hardshell bags. For example, our Maxlite® 5 21″ spinner weighs 5.4 pounds empty, and it’s one of the lightest carry-on bags in the industry. In some cases, hard shells can be lighter than soft shells because they don’t always have interior reinforcement, but then you could be sacrificing durability for weight.

Speaking of durability, softside bags have a bit of an advantage because hard shell bags can crack and break when they’re dropped. They can do a better job of protecting what’s inside, if the shell is really thick and rigid but again, that comes with additional weight.

Packing may be an issue when you look at the configuration of a hardside versus a softside. For the most part, the hard shell bags are split right in the middle, giving you two nearly-equal halves to pack everything. This can be a bit of a problem if you’re trying to pack bulky items.

On the other hand, a softside bag is usually a single compartment with a flat lid. The whole suitcase is a single packing space, which lets you see how much will fit without a lot of closing and repacking, closing and repacking until you finally get the lid shut.

And space is a problem with hardshell bags. Many of them cannot be expanded, and you certainly can’t compress them to fit into a cramped overhead bin. There, the softsides have the advantage. Not only does the fabric give a little bit, so you can close the lid a little more easily, but many of them come with expansion zippers that give you a couple extra inches of room.

Softside bags also have added accessibility in the forms of exterior pockets. Nearly all of our softside carry-on bags have pockets for water bottles, folders, reading material, and even a large exterior pocket to stick a light jacket or your laptop. We even offer some carry-on models in our Crew™ 11 and Platinum® Elite collections that feature a small pocket for your rechargeable battery pack that integrates with an external USB port so you can charge your phone while you move.

For many business travelers, the softside bags are the preferred choice, especially for carry-ons. They’re lightweight, have external pockets for extra storage and convenience, they can hold more, fit into tighter spaces, and packing is much easier because of the single compartment. Keeping them clean and dry isn’t a problem for many business travelers since you’re usually going from the apartment to your car to the hotel, and so on. If you’re worried about the elements, our bags feature a DuraGuard® coating which protects the bags from moisture and abrasions.

What do you think? Do you prefer softside or hardside luggage? Which ones have you had in the past? Would you switch? Share your thoughts and stories on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

U.S. Airlines, Airports Exploring Use of Self-Bag Drop

February 21, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Life is becoming more like The Jetsons all the time, especially around the airport. In a recent article, Travel Weekly told us about self-bag drop at some airports using machines by German vendor Materna.

While tighter security regulations have prevented unassisted self-bag drop machines in airports, U.S. airlines and airports are finally exploring the possibility of a rollout.

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

The self-bag drop at Incheon Airport in South Korea

According to Stu Williams, Senior Vice President for Special Projects at the Denver Airport, nearly 200 Materna machines are being installed as part of a broader overhaul of the airport’s central Jeppesen Terminal. This means that by 2020 every bag drop location at the airport will enable flyers to self-check their baggage.

According to a study by SITA, another vendor of self-bag drop machines, 45% of airlines offer unassisted bag drop around the world. Passenger identity is typically agent-verified prior to accessing the bag drop machines for security purposes.

The machines can be time-savers, too. Once at the machines, passengers drop and weigh their bags, scan their bag tags and boarding passes, then they leave their bags to be routed to their flight, all without further agent contact. Some machines can accept payment for oversized baggage, and others offer biometric identity capabilities. Then the machine rolls to the baggage handlers who route it to the correct plane.

In addition to saving time, the machines provide substantial cost savings as agents can monitor up to 14 machines. But in the U.S., the TSA requires an agent manually verify passenger identification. The TSA has also pledged to speed up biometric development and released a road map for biometric expansion.

Several airlines like American, Alaska, Delta, and United, and airports in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami have begun using self-bag check as well. Meanwhile, at New York’s JFK Airport, JetBlue will begin testing biometric self-bag drop this month.

Will you use self-bag drop or are you a carry-on purist? Do you trust the technology to get your bag to your destination on time or do you want to hand it to a human being? Share your thoughts (or experiences) with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: hyolee2 (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

Robert & Mary Carey Spotlight: Santa Barbara, California

February 19, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We are pleased to publish this blog article from Robert & Mary Carey of the RMWorldTravel radio program. Robert and Mary will provide us monthly blog articles covering their different favorite travel destinations. This month, they’re taking a look at Santa Barbara, California.

On our national travel radio show, we regularly spotlight some of our favorite destinations around the U.S. — that are less traveled but offer terrific travel experiences. A recent focus was Santa Barbara, California.

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Blake BronstadSanta Barbara is a fun getaway destination that’s less than a 2-hour car ride north of Los Angeles (you can also take the train if preferred), and it’s one of those places that has something for everyone. It’s long been known as the American Riviera for its coastal location and stunning mountain views. Enjoy hiking, water sports and many other outdoor activities, beautiful Pacific beaches, art, culture, restaurants that range from fine dining to those hidden gems or ‘hole in the wall’ spots that offer great food at great value, night-life, and more. You’ll never run out of things to do in Santa Barbara.

Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California at sunset, by Blake BronstadWe’ve visited Santa Barbara multiple times over the years and will be returning again next summer for a wedding — but whether you’re traveling alone or with friends or family, we encourage you to consider a trip to Santa Barbara (with your Travelpro Luggage of course). The world famous Stearns Wharf, which just happens to be California’s oldest working wharf, is a great place to spend the day riding bicycles, strolling, eating handmade ice cream, shopping or soaking in the California sunset in the evening. Kids will love the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, which has some really cool interactive exhibits explaining the sea creatures that live below the Wharf, and if you’re an angler, fishing is free on the Wharf! Just stop by one of the local bait and tackle shops and they’ll get you all set up. We love to ride bikes when we travel there as the topography makes it an excellent cycling city. Personally, we’re fans of the Surrey bikes because to us they are quintessential Santa Barbara. Four wheels, 3-4 passengers and loads of fun tooling around. Sometimes you just have to be a tourist and relax and enjoy. Although, rumor has it even the locals enjoy the Surreys!

A bit of a secret that many visitors don’t know about is the growing wine region in Santa Barbara. Napa and Sonoma have certainly made their mark in the wine world but Santa Barbara has some terrific vineyards that are reminiscent of the way Napa may have looked before it became so popular about 30-40 years ago. The Santa Ynez Valley has many experts claiming it may become the next big wine region nationally so we suggest going to enjoy it now if that’s the case. There are some award-winning wineries in this area and another must-see is Rancho Olivos for superb olive oil tastings and tours.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse Photo by Gabriela Herman-11-10-18Cultural activities like art shows, theatre, music festivals, craft shows, and wine and craft brewery events run year-round in Santa Barbara, and you can expect a Mediterranean-like climate with comfortable seasonal temperatures year round. If you are lucky enough to plan your trip in the month of March, try to time it around the largest Orchid Show in the U.S. The 74th Annual Santa Barbara Orchid Show runs March 17-19, 2019 and is one of the top orchid shows in the world.

Safe and Happy Travels!

Robert & Mary Carey, Hosts
America’s #1 Travel Radio Show
www.RMWorldTravel.com

1) Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California, by Blake Bronstad (Used with permission)
2) Aerial photo of Santa Barbara, California at sunset, by Blake Bronstad (Used with permission)
3) Santa Barbara County Courthouse Photo by Gabriela Herman (Used with permission)

Hotel Insider Secrets for Better Prices and Service

February 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We share a lot of hotel insider secrets here on the Travelpro blog, but we always keep our eye out for new ones to share. We were rewarded last month when USA Today published its article, Hotel secrets: Insider tips for lower prices and better service.

Glenn Haussman is a podcaster with shows like “No Vacancy” and “Checking In With Anthony and Glenn” (co-hosted with Anthony Melchiorri from Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible.”) Glenn shared a few secrets with USA Today about how to find better prices and service.

One suggestion that was new to us was to understand who owns the hotel? Most hotels in a chain are rarely owned by the name on the front — Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott — but are instead owned by a franchisee. That means if you have a service complaint, you should direct it to the real owner, and not the brand’s customer service line. You can often find the name of the ownership company on a plaque near the front desk

Another hotel secret we’ve discussed before is watch out for resort fees. These are mandatory fees that are usually added on by the hotel after you’ve received your initial price quote, and go toward amenities like parking, pool, and workout facilities.

“Resort fees are a scourge,” Haussman told USA Today. “They create an antagonistic relationship with the customer, which is antithetical to everything the hospitality industry is supposed to be about.”

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OHThe best way around the resort fees, says Haussman, is to call the hotel ahead of time and negotiate your room rate directly — don’t go through the website, don’t go through the customer service (800) number. The best deals will be gotten by speaking with the hotel’s general manager. This is especially important if you’re not going to avail yourself of the different amenities the hotel offers, like a swimming pool or workout facility.

Haussman’s third big secret is to book your hotel room directly, not go through an online third-party booking site. The hotels have to pay those third-party sites as much as 20 percent of the hotel cost if they refer guests to them, so the hotels don’t want to pay it. That’s also why you don’t get loyalty points, and may even get less-than-preferential treatment from the hotels. The fee can be even higher for independent hotels than the big chain hotels.

So Haussman’s recommendation is that you should call the hotel directly to book your room (that’s also when you can negotiate the resort fees). Haussman says most hotels are happy to give you a 5 – 10 percent discount just to save on the referral fees.

Another secret we’d never heard, but it makes a lot of sense: If you want to switch hotel brands, even though you’ve had long loyalty with the old brand, is to ask for a status match with the new hotel. Whether you want to just test out the new hotel or want to switch completely, it’s often not necessary to start over with the new hotel.

Finally, always try to stay in the newer hotels. They have the faster Internet speeds and the larger TVs. Plus, you’re more likely to get the frequent traveler upgrades, since it often takes a year or more to get a new hotel’s business up to a profitable level. That means the upgrade rooms will sometimes sit empty, which means you can snag one fairly easily (or even for free if they won’t budge on the resort fees).

What hotel insider secrets do you have when you travel? Any that you’d like to share with us? Share them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Five Things You Should Do (and Not Do) at Hotel Checkout

February 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travelers are in and out of hotels so often, you have the hotel checkout routine down pat. On your last day, they slide the receipt under the door, and you walk out, confident that everything is fine and nothing needs your attention.

But that’s not always the case. USA Today recently shared some advice on what you should not do during hotel checkout, and we thought we’d share a few of these tips with you as well.

hotel management trainee working at the front desk at the Pearl Continental Hotel Rawalpindi 8. Be sure to check at the front desk during your hotel checkout to avoid surprise fees.First, be sure to double-check your bill. A lot of times, you can overlook an errant charge without realizing it. Maybe you negotiated no resort fees when you checked in, but they failed to note it on your account. Or maybe you’re being charged for something from the mini-bar even though you didn’t partake. Or maybe there was a breakfast charged to your room by mistake. Dispute the charges before you leave the building and get an updated copy of the bill.

Second, don’t leave anything behind Look for all electronics and chargers, make sure you’ve packed all medications and toiletries. And check behind your TV, in case you plugged in a Google Chromecast or USB cable. It helps to pack most of your items the night before and then you only have to deal with the things you need in the morning.

Leave a tip for the housekeeper. This is a customary part of every hotel stay, and you should leave between $2 and $5 for each night you’re there. Try to leave it each morning if you’re staying for more than a day, but if the housekeeper doesn’t take it on those mornings, then leave the sum total at the end.

Reserve a spot on the airport shuttle the night before If there’s a free airport shuttle, you can use it, but seats are often limited. Be sure to reserve your seat the night before so you don’t show up at the last minute only to find out you’re not going to make it. And be in the lobby 10 minutes before you’re supposed to leave; the shuttle might not stick around if you’re finishing up breakfast thinking you can stroll out at the last second.

Pay with a credit card, not a debit card. The danger of securing your stay with a debit card is that the hotel will often put a hold on $200 or more for “incidentals” — pay-per-view TV, minibar, etc. — when you check in. Anything you don’t use will be put back on your debit card after a few days. But this could put you in the red if other checks clear, like your utilities or mortgage/rent. Use a credit card for incidentals and to pay for your bill, if possible. If that’s not possible, give them a credit card to secure those incidentals, but pay with the debit card at the end of the stay to avoid the monetary hold.

What advice do you have for new hotel travelers? Anything they should avoid or watch out for, or things they absolutely must do? Tell us your (hotel) secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Hashoo Foundation (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

How to Protect Yourself When Using Money Transfer Apps

February 5, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The ability to transfer money through mobile apps is growing in popularity, especially as more new services are created to make it possible. There are two popular apps that people are turning to, which means there’s also a growing opportunity for fraud and theft, so it’s important that you protect yourself.

Instead of people watching you pass along cash, there are hackers watching your transactions when you use these apps. Like any online transaction, there are inherent risks for someone to either take your money or find a way to access your account whenever they want. Taking a few precautions now can save you time, money and a big headache later.

Jason Glassberg, a cybersecurity expert and co-founder of Casaba Security recently told Travel and Leisure that individuals should “think of hackers like car thieves—they’re much more likely to steal a vehicle with the key in the ignition and windows down than one that’s locked and alarmed.”

Keeping your accounts secure on any of these peer-to-peer apps can be simple and keep pesky scammers away. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself on Venmo, PayPal, Cash, Apple Pay, and Google Wallets.

Use a complex password. Yeah, it’s tempting to want to use one password for several accounts. Simple passwords are easier to remember, but complex ones are more difficult to hack. Choose a unique password—one that’s long and confusing. We recommend using a password vault to generate and store passwords (vaults like 1Password and LastPass will even sync your passwords between devices), and then just retrieve them as you need them.

The generated passwords can be long multi-character creations like DJ!&a9m1jqz* or diminish-coffee-whale-nodule. You won’t remember them, but that’s what the password vault is for.

A woman holding a mobile phone, looking at her PayPal app. You need to protect yourself when you transfer money this way.Or if you need to, you can always create a long passphrase that you’ll easily remember, like ILeftMyHeartInSanFrancisco. It will be easier to crack than a random password, but it’s a lot harder than if you’d used passw0rd!.

Set up two-factor authentication. This is where, after you fill in your password, the app texts you a 6-digit code. Fill in that 6-digit code on the app, and you’re in. This way, if your ID and password are known to someone else, they still need your phone to finish the transaction. In other words, the app is “double-checking” to make sure it’s you.

Once you’ve started the transaction, double-check and triple-check to make sure the details are accurate. Accounts can be created to look almost identical to the one you’re looking for, so use caution. Remember: once you send a payment, the money leaves your account and cannot be returned. If necessary, call the person you’re sending the money to in order to confirm their receipt.

In order for these apps to send money, they need to be linked to a financial source. Your safest choice? Use a credit card and not a debit card. Credit cards offer a lot more protection than a bank’s debit card. For one thing, you could be responsible for all the missing funds with a debit card, but the credit card may charge you as much as $50 for fraudulent charges. Keep in mind that some credit cards may charge a processing fee to use it, but you’ll get peace of mind for as much as 1–3 percent.

The network you use is just as important as the card, password, and authentication process you choose. Financial transactions on public wifi networks (airports, restaurants, libraries) are at increased risk. You’re better off using a password protected wifi or your cellular network to protect yourself (turn off the wifi on your phone to make sure you’re only using the cellular network). And remember to update your apps and operating system because newer versions offer more protection than older software.

Turn on notifications for your finance apps and you’ll be alerted to any issues as soon as they happen. The more you know about your accounts, the better, and the sooner you can get them resolved. Even something as simple as receiving a text for every transaction can keep you updated on your account.

When you’re finished with your transaction, be sure to completely sign out of your account, don’t just close the app. By not signing out, your session remains active and someone can open the window and still be logged in.

Finally, one option is to have only one device strictly for payments. A separate smartphone will keep you safer since you’re not visiting other websites, playing games, or running other software. This solution is a bit more costly, but it offers the most protection. If you still have an old phone, you could use it for this purpose. Delete all the data, update operating systems and payment apps, and you’ve got a dedicated payment device.

Peer-to-peer payment apps are a great way to get money into the hands of someone quickly and conveniently, especially if you take a few simple safety precautions. How do you protect yourself and make sure your financial transactions are safe while still using your mobile phone to send and receive money? Share your tips, suggestions, and ideas on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Monito.com (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

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