Travelers Be Wary of 'Data Passing' Online
Agosta, a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization in
"It gave the impression that it was from Travelocity," she remembered. "I'm usually wary of these types of pop-ups and don't click on them. But this one looked halfway legit because of its general appearance and the fact that it included the travel confirmation information."
Moments after she clicked on the offer, her credit card company phoned, asking her to verify a
Had Agosta just experienced the fabled "data pass" that was the subject of a high-profile, year-long investigation by the
No way, says Travelocity.
"We do not pass credit card data," said spokesman
"Data pass" refers to a shady practice of sending credit card information along to a third party at the end of a transaction without the buyer's explicit approval. In years past, travelers often found themselves unwittingly enrolled in clubs that automatically charged a monthly enrollment fee while travel companies raked in millions in profits, according to investigators and consumers.
"The link on the
Frey believes -- and a
It also distanced itself from Agosta's case.
Other travel companies mentioned in the report either refused to comment for this story or said that they do not pass along customer information in this way.
"We don't do it," said
Instead, online agencies such as his now offer other products at the end of a transaction, including rental cars, hotel rooms, trip insurance, tours and attractions. But any purchase must be authorized separately.
The way in which these other products are marketed is a topic for another day. (Some online agencies still engage in a questionable practice called "opt-out" marketing -- more on that soon.) For now, the big concern among travelers should be avoiding the kind of mysterious data passing that happened to Agosta, if not eliminating it.
How do we rid the Internet of this questionable marketing technique?
Until then, don't let your guard down at the end of an online transaction. With just a push of a radio button or the click of a mouse, you could be buying something you don't want, according to a
"Don't click buttons just to finish a purchase," he warned.
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