Smartphones making travel easier

Technology is continuing to make travel easier and more accessible.

And, undoubtedly, one of the more intriguing developments in travel has been the move toward replacing credit cards, passports and hotel keys with a single device — the smartphone.

Some industry pundits have suggested that the smartphone could do it all in as little as five-10 years.

That certainly seems feasible.

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Cards on the way out

The way credit cards are used is changing fast because of services like Apple Pay.

It’s becoming common to see people holding their phones or watches next to the card reader at shop check-outs while their identity is verified.

The days of carrying a wallet or purse full of credit and loyalty cards certainly seem numbered.

On our most recent European trip, we had all our loyalty cards, Seniors Card, Driver’s licences etc stored on our phones using the Stocard App. It worked well, however we still nervously took along our actual credit cards. Perhaps next time!

Hotel room entry

Hotels world-wide are gradually testing various methods of keyless entry where a smartphone will open and lock room doors, instead of using cards or, in some cases, actual keys.

It’s just another way in which hotels are streamlining traditional processes to improve the process for guests.

Wireless phone charging

The industry is also moving to introduce wireless charging to reduce the need for charging points in hotel rooms. The latest phones can be charged wirelessly

And cheap international telephone roaming is now common in much of the world. Our charges were pegged at three Australian dollars a day – if we made calls. We send to use Face Time on free wifi.

The European Union has, also made cheap roaming mandotory in its member countries.

Boarding passes

Of course, using a phone as a boarding pass is now common at airports.

The movement to electronic Passports is probably a little way off yet – and may be governed largely by political and immigration issues.

However,  steps in that direction are still being taken in preparation.

Security booths

There are also automated security booths appearing at the departure area of many airports.

So, depending on destination and hotel, it’s already possible to:

  • buy aircraft tickets online and store them on your phone
  • board a plane using a pass and the tickets on your phone.
  • pay for your hotel with your phone
  • enter your room using your phone
  • pay for meals and purchases using your phone
  • book Uber or similar transport to and from airports.

And, thank goodness that today’s smartphones have ever-more-strict security features to prevent misuse.

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Our credit card went shopping in the US without us

Until recently, we probably knew as much as the next person about credit card fraud, the Dark Web and its ‘crypto markets’ where identities can be bought and sold.

That changed when one of our credit cards was suddenly used to buy thousands of dollars worth of goods in California, USA.

In barely two weeks, someone used our names and card details to charge up goods at a car dealership (twice), motels, pizza shops and petrol stations.

The purchases had apparently started with small amounts, but our card quickly got to within $600 of its limit.

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Photo: Pexels

Only one transaction

However, the really interesting point was that the credit card in question  – a  28 Degree MasterCard – was not one we used regularly.

In fact, we had made only a single transaction – buying tickets directly from the website of a major airline – in almost three years.

Because we rarely used the card and because it never left our possession, we had fallen into the habit of checking its activity only when the monthly statement arrived.

When it comes to our personal computers and tablets, we have always been as security conscious as possible – and have never had problems with buying online.

In fact, when the credit card company alerted us to this particular issue, we initially refused to talk to its staff – because they contacted us by telephone.

So, we asked, how had this happened to us?

The credit card company investigated the incident and we now have a new card.

A learning process

In the process, we learned how computer-savvy criminals can insert malicious software on genuine business websites to harvest credit card numbers, names and other personal information. These websites usually have inadequate security – with predictable and weak passwords.

And, that may well be how our information was stolen.

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Photo: Pexels

It’s apparently well known on the streets that harvested credit card numbers are traded on marketplaces in the so-called Dark Web, a murky part of the Internet unknown to most people.

The Dark Web cannot be reached using Google, Safari or the other general web browsers.

It requires a browser called TOR – which can be downloaded free of charge – and virtual networks that allow users to surf the web anonymously by scrambling IP addresses and masking physical locations.

There, computer geeks apparently rub shoulders with all types of organised crime, political activists and even spies.

Apparently the computer geeks who harvest the passwords in the first place often sell them for little money. However, that’s when the heavy crime begins.

Without getting into the question of whether this is merely a victimless crime (despite the fact that it pushes up credit card fees for all and can put a card effectively out of operation) there is a clear moral to the story: if  you are using cards online, then check your balances regularly – possibly daily – for irregular activity.

Don’t wait for the statement to arrive.

Let us know if you’ve had any similar experiences.

Main photo courtesy Pexels

 

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