Are e-checks a safe way to pay for travel?

Stevanovich/Shutterstock
Stevanovich/Shutterstock
As she paged through Viking River Cruises’ glossy brochure one recent afternoon, Diane Moskal noticed a new way to save money: If she booked the Waterways of the Tsars itinerary sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg with something called an e-check, the cruise line promised to knock $100 off the fare.

An e-check is an electronic debit to your checking account, and it’s billed as a quick, convenient way to pay for your vacation that is “as easy as providing your credit card number,” according to Viking.

But like any smart traveler, Moskal wasn’t content with that explanation. “I see that the cruise lines advocate consumer savings if you pay by e-check,” she says. But she also found several complaints online, which made her hesitate. She wondered: Are e-checks safe?
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A shocking problem with DirecTV

Nivens/Shutterstock
Nivens/Shutterstock
Patricia Wilson’s TVs are blown out. DirecTV blames her internal wiring, but she thinks the company has something to do with it. Now they’re at an impasse. Or are they?

Question: I have been caught up in a nearly month-long claim with DirecTV over faulty equipment, and I’m hoping you can help. We had two TVs blown, two receivers blown, and a fried HDMI cable. A DirecTV supervisor inspected my house and concluded that their coaxial cable was “hot” at 121 volts. But after not locating the source, they packed their bags and told us it was an electrical problem on our side.

The funny part is these supervisors took apart the dish and took with them the transmitter and conveniently pulled the “hot” cable out of the house. A DirecTV damage claims representative even told me the items taken were not for them to take, since technically these are my items when I sign their contract. The supervisors provided no explanation for why they did this. I’m left to assume something was faulty with either or both of these items.
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Something’s still “phishy” about vacation rentals

Gilles/Shutterstock
Gilles/Shutterstock
If you think the words “vacation rental” and “phishing” are all but synonymous, you’re not alone. Just talk to Ann Schutte, who recently found a rental villa with a “million-dollar” view in Sedona, Ariz., through the rental Web site VRBO.com.

A woman claiming to own the property quoted her a $645 rate for five nights if she wired her the money. “After a number of e-mails back and forth, I agreed to the rental,” says Schutte, a property manager from Phoenix. “I received a contract. Everything looked correct on the contract. It even had the rental property address and logo. I signed the agreement, and wired the money through Western Union to the U.K.”
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