Tag Archives: card

Do you trust online vacation rental sites like HomeAway.com?

I’m going to New York next month. As there are three of us travelling and we are staying in town for four nights I thought I would book an apartment, rather than two hotel rooms.

I checked out homeaway.com because I met their UK sales director a while ago and I remember thinking that I should try their service sometime.

They have hundreds of great places all over the world and I was spoiled for choice looking at the map of Manhattan – eventually deciding on a 2-bed apartment on 50th street. I sent my details to the owner and he confirmed that it was available on the dates I needed.

He sent me an invoice via PayPal and I paid it immediately – $1370 – not a small amount, but certainly cheaper than 2 decent hotel rooms in midtown Manhattan for 4 nights.

After paying, I immediately emailed the property owner to ask for the exact address, what time I could arrive and all that basic check-in stuff. He never responded. Five days later I tried calling. The number was a dud.

So I emailed again, but I started worrying. What if this guy has just stiffed me for over a thousand dollars? I still need to book a place to stay in New York whatever happens with this guy!

So I filed a complaint with HomeAway. Typically their customer service team promised to get back to me “in a few days”… is that acceptable from any customer service team today? I’m in the hole for over a grand and I just have to sit tight and wait.

Fortunately, PayPal were very helpful and have reassured me that even if this guy has stolen from me, they will underwrite the loss. In short, they have a dispute resolution centre where I can contact the person I sent money to. Usually they would allow a week to see if the person responds. After that week, PayPal would get directly involved in the chase and if another 10 days passes with no resolution then PayPal will reverse the transaction.

That still feels like a long time to wait, given the amount and given that in a couple of weeks I need a place to stay. PayPal agreed and said that because of the amount involved, they would waive the usual 7 day wait and they will get immediately involved in chasing the funds.

So I’m shell-shocked because of the experience. This was my great welcome to HomeAway.com… the best I can hope for is that I have a property owner who forgets to reply to email and doesn’t have a working phone – it was all a misunderstanding. The worst is that my money has gone, but will be refunded in 10 days.

And if I know this will be resolved one way or the other in 10 days that still gives me about a week to find a place to stay in New York – but you can bet it won’t be on HomeAway this time, or any time in future.

Manhattan Panorama

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I was not born in Belfast, but that’s what my Brazil ID card says…

I just collected my Brazilian permanent ID card. It’s taken many visits to the policia federal in Lapa to get this far. Though my permanent resident status was approved back in September 2011, it has taken about six months for them to produce a plastic card – and I had to go in person to fetch it.

The card says that I am British – quite correct. But it says that I was born in Northern Ireland – wrong. I was born in Surrey, England.

The police said that they cannot choose the UK, Great Britain, or England as a place of birth on their computer system, so they chose Northern Ireland as it is “pretty close”… I explained that it was wrong, but they said that my nationality is correct and I won’t have any problem using the card even if my place of birth is not correct.

Imagine that. The police and immigration officials can’t even put my correct country of birth on my ID card because of a computer system SNAFU.

Still, I don’t mind being from the Emerald Isle. It could have been worse, France is closer to Surrey than Northern Ireland!

Brazil ID

A simple idea to prevent card fraud

I read about the German fraudster jailed in the UK recently. The BBC claimed his technology could remotely read card details allowing him to potentially earn up to £150m a year.

It makes me wonder why the UK, and other countries, do not adopt the very simple innovation most banks in Brazil use – though I believe it was initially pioneered by HSBC.

You put your card in the ATM and enter your PIN as usual, but then a new set of options, looking at bit like this is presented:

WXY              GHI

STU               JKL

ANC               MBO

DZF               PQR

The letters are in fact all randomised and different every time. Every customer not only has a four digit numeric PIN, but a three character password too. But you never type your actual password… in the collection of randomised characters you press the button closet to the character you want to type.

So, if your code is XYZ, even if someone watches or films you punching in the code, they cannot tell if you entered XYZ, YXF, XWD, WYF… simple, but very effective.
Ladybird on ATM

New Moo cards featuring Brazil

If you have met me and had a business card from me in the past few years then you probably have one of my Moo Cards. I take a lot of photos when I am out and about and those photos end up on my business cards… so everyone always gets a unique card when they meet me.

I just got some new ones printed for my new role at IT Decisions. They all feature photos I have taken of Brazil.

Take a look at a small selection of some of the cards here and see what you can recognise…

New Moo Cards