As summer travel starts to pick up, consumers need to be aware when they’re preparing for, or going on, summer vacations.
Stealing your mail. While you’re on vacation, your mailbox fills up with credit card offers and bank statements. The bad guy can steal this mail and use it to open new credit cards in your name, or to take over existing accounts. Get a mailbox that locks to prevent thieves from stealing your mail. Have a trusted friend retrieve your mail while you’re away. Opt out of prescreened credit card offers.
Credit card fraud. When you are out and about, anyone who handles your credit card can steal your digits and make unauthorized charges, as can anyone on the other end of an online purchase. Check your credit card statements as frequently as possible. Review them weekly, at a minimum. Federal law requires that credit card companies allow you to refute unauthorized charges for up to 60 days. Keep your receipts and scrutinize those statements.
Internet cafe spyware. Anytime you use any PC other than your own, your identity is at risk. Spyware is software installed on a computer that records every keystroke, username, password, and website visited. Autocomplete is a browser function that remembers your passwords. Autocomplete on a public computer means potential identity theft. If at all possible, avoid business center or Internet cafe PCs. Many mobile phones can function as a temporary replacement for a PC.
Online dating scams. Millions of people use online dating sites to broaden their networks and meet potential mates, but not every person on these sites is sincere—some are scammers hoping to lure you in with false affection, with the goal of gaining your trust and, eventually, your money. Only use reputable sites. The minute anyone asks you to forward them money via wire transfer, delete the message.
WiFi insecurity. Whether you travel for business, or simply need Internet access while out and about, your options are plentiful. You can sign on at airports, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and now, airplanes. Wireless networks broadcast messages using radio, and are thus more susceptible to eavesdropping than wired networks. Use Hotspot Shield VPN to protect your data by tunneling through an encrypted wireless network.
Overseas skimming. Card skimming is the act of copying credit card data off a magnetic stripe card, whether on an ATM or in person. US-based cards are more vulnerable because they are mostly magnetic. Overseas, particularly in Europe, EMV or “chip and PIN” cards are standard. Chip and PIN cards are much harder to hack. Many merchants will not, or cannot, accept US cards with magnetic stripes, which could put you in a difficult position when you need gas or have to buy a train ticket.
Check with your bank to see if they offer EMV. JPMorgan Chase began issuing cards with embedded microprocessor chips last year, and more major card issuers have followed suit by incorporating EMV technology. American Express have also announced plans to release chip-based cards in the United States.
Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures