Newsletter sounds alarm over emailing credit card information – Warning from abroad: “Do not take Caravanserai’s bad advice”POSTED: 05/29/13 12:11 PM
St. Maarten – In recent weeks, Caravanserai Resort in SXM has emailed its timeshare owners and given them terrible advice, Jeff Berger writes in St. Maarten Weekly News, an online newsletter that targets timeshare owners and that is part of everythingsxm.com.
Caravanserai did not give bad advice with bad intentions, Berger wrote. “Its intentions were fine. It was telling people that if they wanted their 2014 maintenance fees to be automatically debited from a credit or debit card, all it had to do was email Caravanserai their credit card information and the resort would take care of the rest.
In a letter addressed to Caravanserai members the resort announced a new system for collecting maintenance fees “as auto debit from either a debit or a credit card.”
Attached to the letter was an authorization form members were asked to fill in and email back. Basically this meant that respondents would send their credit card information via email to the resort.
Berger’s comment: “Do not send credit card information to anyone by email, ever.”
He spoke to a lady called Minerva – one of the letter’s signatories – and told her that the letter has three massive problems. “First, a number of Caravanserai timeshare owners interpreted it as a dictate from the resort — a new requirement. Second, some timeshare owners wrote us and it was obvious they assumed that the resort would charge the cards without advising timeshare owners in advance how much would be debited. And third, the credit / debit card info was to be sent to the resort by email.”
Next, Berger spoke with Caravanserai owner Harish Manek who explained that the new system is not a required way to pay anything. “It’s an option. Sending checks by regular ground mail makes some payments late and the resort wants to help timeshare owners avoid that (including late fees), hence this program.”
Second, bills will still be sent in November and payment will be required by early January – so timeshare owners will know what they owe before any deductions are made. The debit/credit option will be a choice they can make after receiving their bill.
The third item is the worst part of this, Berger notes. “Email is insecure; mail can be intercepted on the way between sender and recipient and identity theft, credit card fraud, and other serious problems can result. Never, ever send critical personal information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. by email, either in the body of an email or as an attachment. Never.”
Berger adds that Harish Manek totally agrees. He also has a hint for the resort to avoid any problems: “We think Caravanserai should have a secure web server and accept online payments as most other companies now do (including us). It is fast, easy, and far less dangerous than sending critical data in insecure emails.”
Businesses that have a website and want to accept online payments, could visit Berger’s “Websites That Work” unit at www.websitesthatworkusa.com.