E-receipts and Spring Break getaways

February 28, 2013

As technology has become more advanced stores have found different ways to incorporate technology into the shopping experience. In the past few months some retailers and banks have started offering consumers the option of receiving e-receipts. This paperless option helps to reduce clutter and waste, but the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) reminds shoppers to be aware of identity theft while using this new technology.

These e-receipts offer new opportunities for both stores and consumers. For many stores the e-receipts are tied to the store card or the clerk can quickly enter your email address at the end of the purchase. It is a way for the store to save money and offer another option for the customer.

E-receipts also offer an easier way for consumers to keep of track and file away receipts to help with a return or exchange at a later date. They also help to cut down on waste and clutter for the consumer.

"Although the convenience of e-receipts may be seen as a benefit, it is important to make sure that companies do not use e-receipts as a way to fill up your inbox with 'junk mail'," according to Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Confirm that the company does not sell your email address or use it for financial gains."

For shoppers who are interested in opting for e-receipts, BBB offers the following tips:

* Find out how the business plans to keep your information secure. Check the businesses privacy policy. You will want to check to see if the business plans on selling your information to third-parties. If they do, be on the lookout for unsolicited emails requesting your personal information; they could be scams that download malware on your computer.

* Ask if you can opt-out of receiving promotional emails. Now that the business has your email address, it's possible you'll start to receive coupons, newsletters and other promotional emails from them…and even from others if they've sold or shared your data. You may want to set up a separate email address to use for paperless receipts so that you can easily monitor it for spam.

* Beware of scams. Having receipts emailed can also make you susceptible to phishing and other identity theft scams. Scammers pose as retailers or banks with realistic-looking emails that may claim there are problems with your purchase and request that you click a link to fix it. The link may take you to a fraudulent site that asks for your personal information, or it might download malware on your computer that will search your hard drive for account numbers and passwords.

* Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. Whether or not you plan to increase your internet and email use, it's always a good idea to make sure your system's security plan is updated regularly. Spammers feed off of online shoppers who fail to update their security patches.

Better Business Bureau Warns: booking Spring Break getaways

As we reach mid January, a lot of people begin to book their spring break getaways. It's wise to be aware of travel scams, the Better Business Bureau fields thousands of complaints about the travel industry every year. It is important for travelers, especially high school and college students, to not get caught up in the allure of deep discounts for eye-catching resorts without doing their homework. Take the time to ensure you're booking through a reputable company and you understand all the terms. The BBB recommends paying for vacation costs by credit card so you're protected if something goes wrong. You also may want to purchase travel insurance to cover other potential problems with your vacation.

With Complaints for Travel Agencies up 30% the Better Business Bureau Offers Tips for Booking Spring Break

Consumers frequently contact the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) inquiring about travel companies that promise "too-good-to-be-true" travel deals. These offers arrive unexpectedly in consumers' mailboxes, over the telephone, office fax machine or the Internet. Types of scams include winning a "free" trip and calling a number to claim the prize or receiving a promotion about an unbelievable vacation deal that looks as if it came through inter-office channels. Others may be an offer for a travel club membership, allegedly worth thousand of dollars. The BBB warns consumers to be very careful about booking their spring break.

The BBB reports that complaints against travel agencies are up for this 12 month period. Complaints for 2012 total 157 compared to 120 from 2011, or an increase of 30 percent.

"When planning travel it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of seeing a new place," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Be sure to compare different travel agencies and find one that is reputable to make sure that your spring break is not a bust." The Better Business Bureau offers these tips when booking spring break travel:

Compare services and do not feel pressured: Be very cautious about any operation that pressures you to make an immediate decision or if there is a statement that an offer is good "only if you act now." Compare the services, fees and travel costs from a number of travel agencies before selecting the most attractive package.

Be cautious about telephone, letter or postcard solicitations: Be careful of travel solicitations claiming you've won a "free" trip, or can get "special discounts" on hotels and airfares.

Pay with a credit card: You can get some protection when using a credit card to purchase travel services. If you don't get what you paid for, contact the credit card company and attempt to get the charges cancelled.

Get it in writing: Don't rely on oral promises from a travel service. Request copies of any brochures and contract before purchasing your trip package, or making any reservations.

Consider investing in travel insurance: Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage, or a cancelled or interrupted trip, among other things. Read the insurance contract to understand coverage and exclusions. Investigate trip cancellation policies and determine what they cover to see if they would be worthwhile to purchase the insurance.

Always check the business first: Check out the reputation of the travel agency before doing business with them. Check out free BBB Business Reviews http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/ for valuable information.

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