7

I always book my airline tickets online.

But a promotional offer I am trying to get is only available through calling. Instructions say pay by credit card. But I am not comfortable providing my credit card number and the security code to a human as opposed to a computer when booking online.

Should I just trust the airline employee or is there any other way this work?

  • 1
    Back in the dark ages, before the internet (long before many posting here were born) everyone called the airlines to book and yes gave their credit card details to a voice on the phone. It is funny to see the connected generation, who gave their grandmothers grief about not trusting the internet, now being the ones who don't trust older technology. – user13044 Jul 27 '16 at 21:26
  • Do you really think they're not writing it down on disk, making it accessible to their IT employees and random contractors who manage the systems, and passing it over the network in the clear when you submit your card number booking online? :-) – R.. Jul 28 '16 at 5:37
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    @R.. Well, Its not impossible, but I trust automated systems and people who build them because I am one of them myself :) I hope the production database is encrypted and not just any IT employee has access to it. And we also have this thing called https :) The thing is airline call center people and there work are unfamiliar to me. Thats why ask whats the usual procedure is. – ABH Jul 28 '16 at 8:26
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    @AH a little story of mine as a web developer. I was asked to take a look at a retail website with an eye to taking it on under a maintenance contract. First thing I found? A nice little file called "creditcards.txt" in the root of the websites public folder, containing all the necessary details of everyone who placed a purchase through that website. Available to everyone on the internet. For 5 years. The previous developer got a telling off, so I am told... Moral of the story? You have no idea what the website is doing with your data, any more than that person on the phone. – Moo Jul 28 '16 at 8:49
  • @Moo Ah thats horrible. I guess I will just go through with this call tonight. Feel a little at ease thanks to all the comments and answers. I admit that I shouldn't distrust the voice any more than I distrust the form. – ABH Jul 28 '16 at 9:25
6

It depends. More englightened companies that care about security, will take your personal details and then pass you on, either to an automated system or another employee who does not have access to your identity, in order to obtain the credit card information.

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    That sounds ideal - whereas normally the staff member simply reads your number back as a check, so anyone within earshot can write it down. – Criggie Jul 28 '16 at 0:09
  • @Criggie Do you have any evidence that people writing down card numbers in call centres has ever been a significant source of fraud? Quite apart from anything else, you're going to look really suspicious with a list of credit card numbers on your desk. – David Richerby Jul 28 '16 at 9:03
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    @DavidRicherby Does one need to prove that a security breach is being actively exploited, significantly, before taking steps to mitigate it? As an IT wallah, part of the job is anticipating badness and stopping it from being possible. It becomes a mindset. So, no i don't. – Criggie Jul 28 '16 at 10:42
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    They did exactly that! After taking the details I was passed onto an automated system. – ABH Jul 28 '16 at 16:46
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    @AH There you go. Some companies actually do care about security! In this day and age of PCI assessments and stuff, there are many that to it. – Berwyn Jul 28 '16 at 18:21
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Yes. Providing you credit card number to the airline over the phone is perfectly safe.

Just be sure you are in fact calling the airline directly and not an agency selling a package or other promotional offer.

It's highly unusual that an airline would require you to call. They put a lot of effort into seeing you don't have to call.

  • Well, it's safe to an extent. You can never be positive that the agent you're talking to isn't also writing down your information to take home... But then you're also trusting the website to properly secure the card information when you enter it... or the retail establishment to secure it safely when you swipe it... – Bobson Jul 28 '16 at 4:17
  • Thanks. Could you tell me if its normal/required for them to ask for the three digit security code as well? – ABH Jul 28 '16 at 9:31
  • @AH - Yes, that's normal. Those are (usually) required for "Card not present" transactions. Since you're calling in over the phone, the card is, in fact, not present at the airline. Your card can be charged without it, but the airline would get charged higher fees by the card network. – Bobson Jul 28 '16 at 12:48
4

In addition to the other answers, I'll add that while it's never entirely secure the risk is low enough for you to be ok. Credit card companies will prevent you from being liable in cause of fraud anyway, and while paying online seems safer computer systems are not risk-free.

If you happen to live somewhere where airlines still have travel offices, you could try to go and pay in person otherwise yes you'll have to trust them over the phone.

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