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Warnings for smartphone, credit-car users at World Cup

Matt Hamblen | June 11, 2014
Soccer fans lucky enough to be traveling to Brazil for the World Cup are hearing an earful of consumer warnings about potentially onerous smartphone roaming charges and credit card ripoffs at ATMs and restaurants.

As in any busy venue around the world, ACI recommended that ATM users watch out for fake ATM's that thieves set up to grab card information. Customers should watch a potential ATM to see if other customers have gotten any cash and avoid using it if they haven't. Ruden suggested one way to know if an ATM is fake is to type in an incorrect PIN: if the machine lets you proceed, it probably isn't legitimate.

To avoid point-of-sale fraud, ACI issued age-old advice: Don't let anyone walk away with your card, including a waiter or store clerk who could copy the account number and expiration date. "Paying with cash reduces the likelihood of getting defrauded," Ruden said.

A different kind of consumer warning was recently issued to World Cup travelers, especially those from England, who will use their smartphones in Brazil. The U.K. Web site found smartphone visitors to Brazil face the risk of spending as much as 486 (US $815) per day on data roaming, phone calls, text messages and video streaming. Roaming charges are capped within Europe, but not in Brazil.

The website found that a one-minute phone call from Brazil to England could cost the equivalent of $3.35 a minute, and could cost as much as of $13.40 for 1 MB of data. (An HD movie lasting two hours is around 3 GB).

All the major U.S. carriers urge their customers to consult the carrier websites to set up smartphone travel plans for the countries they are visiting to avoid exorbitant costs and bill shock.

XCom Global took advantage of the uSwitch warning about roaming and calling costs from Brazil to advertise its unlimited data access and worldwide coverage, including Brazil, at rates it says are well below standard international data roaming charges, without long-term contracts. XCom Global also rents cell phones for international use at $15 per day, and will offer a discount of one free day of use with the discount code "FIFAFREE" used when ordering on the company's website.

Most international travelers know to use free or low-cost Wi-Fi networks to avoid big data roaming charges. Aptilo Networks, based in Stockholm, announced it has set up Wi-Fi offloading for three of Brazil's largest operators — TIM, Oi and LInktel. Linktel operates an independent network of 2,300 Wi-Fi hotspots in Brazil, but it isn't clear how accessible these hotspots will be for international tourists to the World Cup.


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