The Osceola Resort Area Council invited their whole membership, and members of the public, to an open meeting on Tuesday, June 18 at Ramada Kissimmee Gateway. Representatives from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office were present to share tips on staying safe in the corridor and the tourism industry as part of ORAC’s second ever Tourism Safety “In the Know” Seminar.
Here’s a summary of what was learned about identifying signs of human trafficking, safeguarding against credit card fraud, and protecting your business from vulnerabilities.
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It can also be known as modern day slavery. There are two types of trafficking:
- Sex trafficking: victim is manipulated or forced against their will to engage in sex
- Labor trafficking: forced labor, working for little or no pay
Trafficking is a hidden crime. Sadly, we may not recognize the signs even when it’s happening right in front of us. As reported by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), there were a total of 2,133 reports of human trafficking maltreatments for state fiscal year 2017-2018. The top business venue for labor trafficking is agriculture and the top venue for sex trafficking is hotels and motels. (Note: these are two of Osceola County’s top industries.)
Want to help? Be aware, ask questions, and alert law enforcement. Major indicators of human trafficking can be observed in hotel lobbies, at reservations desks, at hotel check-in, by housekeeping, and in restaurants and bars.
Below are potential signs of human trafficking that you and your staff should be cognizant of.
In addition to the shattered lives and trauma that result from human trafficking, businesses can be negatively affected when human trafficking is found on their premises. A loss of reputation, additional security concerns, and liability risks are all to be considered as probable side-effects of human trafficking.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud can be very tricky. It can be quite difficult to prove. Here are some precautions advised by law enforcement when accepting credit card payments for hotel reservations. Remember, businesses should be sure to get a BRC (business record identification) to authenticate any video or documents you provide to law enforcement in a fraud case:
- Get the full card number
- Keep clear, usable video surveillance
- Get copies of identification
- Have the card used for the reservation presented at first check-in
- Collect other information (telephone number, etc.)
Other suggestions from law enforcement to guard against fraud include:
- Have a secure Wi-Fi source, and supply customers with the right information.
- Do not generally authorize to receive packages for guests. If you do, confirm they are staying with you and make a copy of their ID.
- Train employees to not give out any information over the phone.
- Make policies more secure in order to protect the identities of the customers, including restricted employee access to credit card numbers.
Finally, here are some tips for everyday life:
- The chip in your card is safer than the swiper, but (at present) Apple Pay and Google Pay are the safest. They do not transfer your credit card info at all.
- When pumping gas, try to use the center pumps and avoid gas stations with only one attendant.
- Racetrack and Wawa are the safest gas stations for pumping gas, where credit card skimming is concerned.
Business Security Surveys
In the tourism industry, as in any industry, first impressions matter. Businesses must keep their appearances appealing to attract happy, honest customers, and to dissuade criminals.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office provides business security surveys to businesses within the County. A business security survey takes about an hour (in most cases), and provides a proprietor with both an analysis of potential security risks to their facility and operations, and recommended improvements.
Benefits of a business security survey include:
- Makes location safe for staff and guests
- Improves curb appeal
- Improves customer foot traffic
- Helps reduce liability
Business owners, operators, and managers must not give criminals the opportunity to commit wrongdoings. There are ways to prevent and avoid bad situations. One of these is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED is the proper design and effective use of the built environment to help decrease a criminal’s ability to commit a crime, or increase the chance that the crime will be seen and reported.
To schedule a business security survey contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Community Services Unit at 407-348-1190.
ORAC is grateful to the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Corrections for sharing their expertise with us, and to Ramada Gateway for being an excellent host. This event was sponsored by the following tourism industry partners: Experience Kissimmee, Old Town Kissimmee, Magic Development, West 192 Development Authority, Kenney Communications, Medieval Times, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, and Wild Florida.
Amanda Hidalgo contributed to this blog post.