Here’s how to protect your data and devices
Nearly 50 million travelers are expected to hit the road or fly away this holiday weekend, AAA predicts.
But can you guess who else can come with you? The Pirates.
While it’s vacation time for many, cybercriminals are working diligently to capture and exploit your sensitive information.
These malicious attempts may have started during the planning phase (booking through fake rental and hotel websites), while you are en route (retrieving your information from the free internet at the airport or pickpocketing in gas stations) or whenever you have reached your destination (data breach in tourist shops or payment for non-existent excursions).
“Unfortunately, there are several travel-related risks to watch out for, ranging from accommodation scams to putting your data at risk on public Wi-Fi networks, which can allow cybercriminals to intercept your connection and access sensitive financial information,” said Kelly Merryman, president and chief operating officer of Aura, a leading digital security company.
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“Whether travelers are preparing for a road trip or packing carry-on luggage for a flight, they should be aware that fraudsters lie in wait and take advantage of travelers through various scam tactics,” confirms Paul Fabara, Director risks at Visa. “And they’re getting more and more sophisticated: these scams can involve bogus travel agents and even fraudulent airline websites.”
According to the FTC, consumers lost more than $95 million to vacation and travel scams in 2021 — and that’s when travel was on the lighter side due to the pandemic.
To ensure a smooth travel experience this holiday weekend, experts suggest the following:
Use reliable and reputable websites
When transacting online – before or during your trip – always use sites whose URLs start with “https” instead of “http”, because the “s” stands for secure.
“Also be sure to book airfare and accommodations directly with the airline, hotel, or through a site you know,” Merryman suggests. “Be careful of people who rent out their homes through Facebook or other social media.”
On a related note, rely on credit cards instead of debit cards. “When you can, do all your shopping with a credit card because they offer much more protection than debit cards,” adds Merryman. “Other ways to stay vigilant include alerting your bank of travel plans and regularly monitoring your credit card statements for suspicious activity.”
Fabara says it’s also a good idea to sign up to receive free text alerts when a “transaction exceeds a preset amount or when unusual card activity is detected.” You can check with your card issuer for details.
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Buy in store instead of online
In-store, using a payment card with a chip or contactless symbol protects your card data against theft in the event of a data breach, Fabara confirms, using an encryption technology called “tokenization.” This reduces the risk of fraud because store or restaurant staff never see your actual card number.
If you realize your card has been lost or stolen, contact your card issuer immediately to report it. Fabara also suggests updating your login information “whether it’s your real card that was stolen or just your account number, changing your username, password and PIN to prevent further fraud. “.
Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots
Merryman cautions travelers against using free wireless internet in places like cafes, hotel lobbies and airport lounges.
“Hackers can hack into a router, spy on a Wi-Fi connection and even eavesdrop on conversations to steal personal information such as your credit card details, passwords to your social media accounts and compromise your bank accounts by line,” she said.
Instead, when using your laptop on the go, consider creating a personal hotspot by leveraging your smartphone’s cellular connection. Be aware, however, that this counts towards your mobile phone’s data plan and search roaming rates outside of the United States.
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If you absolutely must use free public Wi-Fi, at least run VPN (Virtual Private Network) software to browse anonymously. The “Private” or “Incognito” mode of a browser is not the same thing, because these only erase your history and your cookies when you close the browsing session; what you do online can still be seen by your service provider, advertisers and malicious types.
“Also, update security software and your operating system before making purchases on your computer, tablet, or phone. [as] staying up to date helps fix known vulnerabilities,” adds Fabara.
But it is recommended to refrain from entering personal information, such as passwords and user names and resist financial transactions, such as online shopping, day trading or paying bills, until that you are on a secure network.
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Other safe travel tips
Store digital copies of important documents .Store digital versions of important documents in a secure cloud app that you can access on your smartphone, and make sure your device is secured with a complex password or facial recognition.
Watch for snoopers over the shoulder. Consider a “privacy shield” (starting at $15) on your laptop to ward off snoopers. Unless they’re directly in front of your screen, where you’re sitting, it will appear blacked out, as if the screen is off. You will buy one depending on the make and model of the laptop and the size of the screen, for example 11, 13, 14 or 17 inches.
Do not advertise your location on social media. While it may be tempting to post vacation photos in the moment, remember that these posts also broadcast the fact that your home is vacant at the time. Instead, wait until you get home to err on the side of caution.
Stay away from common PCs. It’s not ideal to use a shared computer in a hotel’s business center or airport lounge, as cybercriminals could secretly install software to capture your typed words (including passwords ). If you must, at least remember to log out of your online activity (like webmail service or social media account) before leaving and restart the machine.
Also avoid public printers. Likewise, don’t use public printers in a hotel’s business center, especially if they’re dealing with sensitive financial or business documents, as these too could be hacked. And what about that print job that you think didn’t work out? He might spit out those papers after you leave.