Don’t Let ID Theft Ruin Summer
Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway, a family vacation to the beach, or a trip abroad, the busy summer travel season is here! Unfortunately, traveling can make you vulnerable to identity theft. Don’t let a hacked bank account or stolen credit card ruin your travel fun. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself from cyber fraud this summer.
Exercise caution when using free Wi-Fi. Many people like to take advantage of free Wi-Fi services when they travel, like those often found at coffee shops and fast food restaurants. PlainsCapital Bank Vice President of Information Security Nghiem Nguyen advises caution when using free public Wi-Fi. “When you use a public wireless network, much of the information you are accessing is visible to any thief with the right tools,” says Nguyen. Even hotel Wi-Fi networks can be vulnerable to hackers, as well as the complimentary Wi-Fi services provided at vacation rental properties like AirBnB. According to Nguyen, a better option would be to connect to the web through a virtual private network or VPN, which encrypts all of the information that passes between your electronic device and a wireless network. Another option would be to travel with your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, which can be set-up through your wireless service provider.
Avoid using public computers. A public computer in a hotel or internet café may be convenient when you’re traveling and don’t have access to your laptop, but it’s also very risky, as you have no way of knowing what is or is not installed on it. The computer could be lacking appropriate security updates or anti-virus protection, or it could have malicious software on it such as keylogging malware. If you must use a public computer when traveling, limit it to benign internet searches like restaurant options, theater show times, or museum directions. Even checking your email or posting to a social media site like Facebook is risky when using a public computer. If you do, you should reset your password from a secure device as soon as possible. And it goes without saying, you should never check your online bank account or enter personal information – like your credit card or social security number – from a public computer.
Limit the number of electronic devices your bring on a trip; secure all of your devices with a strong passcode or security system like Apple’s fingerprint identity sensor Touch ID; and store laptops, notebooks, and any mobile devices in your hotel room safe when not in use.
Choose ATMs carefully. The convenience of being able to access cash quickly when you’re traveling can often override caution, and identity thieves know this. Cyber crooks can plant skimmers on unsecured ATMs and quickly steal your PIN and account data stored on your bank card’s magnetic strip. If you need to use an ATM, find one in a secured location monitored by video camera or security guard, such as in a bank lobby. Avoid unattended ATMs in public locations like airports, amusement parks or convenience stores.
Contact your bank and credit card providers before traveling to let them know from what locations to expect transactions, particularly if you will be traveling out of the country.
When traveling to certain countries, your bank’s online banking site may not be accessible. It’s a good idea to have the bank’s mobile app downloaded to your wireless device, as mobile apps typically do not have geographic restrictions. Mobile apps, like the one for PlainsCapital Bank, provide an easy mechanism for online banking, person-to-person electronic payments, and mobile check deposit.
Set-up automated alerts so you can stay updated on any financial transactions that occur on your account and enroll in your bank’s ID theft protection service, if they offer one.
And finally, when you get back from your summer excursion, it’s always a good idea to review your bank and credit card statements online to check for an unusual or suspicious activity.