Sniffing out the bad guys and staying safe online

This week all those who had entered the lottery official ballot for Rugby World Cup tickets got the good or bad news in their inboxes and letterboxes. One lucky sod in our office secured Category A tickets to the Grand Final and there is an enormous grin firmly plastered on his face right now. This has raised the spectre of ticket scalping and there is no shortage of opinion like this about the pros and cons of the blackmarket for tickets.

So everyone who has their tickets, and know where they need to go, now need to figure out how they are getting there and where they are going to stay. Are they dossing on a friend’s couch, house swapping with a friendly family, holing up at a temporary campground at a racecourse, or are they going to stump up the cash for a hotel, motel or other professionally-run accommodation? We’ve seen a bunch of bookings since October last year for World Cup accommodation, but that traffic has ramped up significantly this week.

In the last two days, we have seen bookings on Travelbug for $16,500 and $10,000, both out of South Africa, and both for long-stay accommodation at fairly high (but not extortionate by any means) nightly rates in September. “Great news”, you’d say, and generally you’d be right, but bookings of that value raise some serious liability issues regarding credit card fraud and chargeback exposure for the operators concerned.

We take a very proactive approach with these sorts of bookings to help weed out fraudsters because trust in the online marketplace is hugely important. Trade Me is actually a really dumb place to do something dodgy as it is the country’s most transparent marketplace, and we all leave deep footprints of electronic information. The Trade Me Trust and Safety team are champions at protecting Trade Me members from fraud and putting bad guys behind bars. To be safe on the main Trade Me site, never let anyone know your Trade Me password, check member feedback and ask questions of the seller. If you are ever in doubt, or if you think something looks dodgy, hit the Community Watch button at the bottom of every listing.

To stay safe elsewhere online, make sure you lock down the information you make available to those who you want to see it on social networking sites like Facebook and even on your Gmail account. This is handy if you don’t want your boss (who you can’t really ignore when they ask you to be their friend) to see that you’re planning a trip to Vegas but haven’t submitted a leave request. (I’m looking at you Jeff J ) Read here for some excellent best practice advice on social media security and the team at Netsafe have some good tips about staying safe online.

It will be interesting to see how the next few months pan out, not just for booking size, value and traveller origin, but to see how the various players in online accommodation handle the security of their operators and travellers as well as minimising their exposure to credit card fraud. One thing’s for sure, Facebook and Google are going to be pretty handy tools for those doing the policing. But the real question is this – who the hell can afford a $16,500 transaction on their credit card?

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