A scam-free vacation

Heading out of town? Make sure you come back with a nice post-vacation glow and not a case of identity theft. Here are some things you can do to lessen the chances you’ll be a victim.

Limit what you carry. Take only the ID, credit cards, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home. If you’ve got a Medicare card, make a copy to carry and blot out all but the last four digits on it.

Know the deal with public Wi-Fi. Many cafés, hotels, airports, and other public places offer wireless networks — or Wi-Fi — you can use to get online. Two things to remember:

  • Wi-Fi hotspots often aren’t secure. If you connect to a public Wi-Fi network and send information through websites or mobile apps, the info might be accessed by someone it’s not meant for. If you use a public Wi-Fi network, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted (here’s how to tell), and avoid using apps that require personal or financial information. Researchers have found many mobile apps don’t encrypt information properly.
  • That Wi-Fi network might not belong to the hotel or airport. Scammers sometimes set up their own “free networks” with names similar to or the same as the real ones. Check to make sure you’re using the authorized network before you connect.

Protect your smartphone. Use a password or pin, and report a stolen smartphone — first to local law enforcement authorities, and then to your wireless provider. In coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the major wireless service providers have a stolen phone database that lets them know a phone was stolen and allows remote “bricking” so the phone can’t be activated on a wireless network without your permission. Find tips specific to your operating system with the FCC Smartphone Security Checker at fcc.gov.

ATMs and gas stations — especially in tourist areas — may have skimming devices. Scammers use cameras, keypad overlays, and skimming devices — like a realistic-looking card reader placed over the factory-installed card reader on an ATM or gas pump — to capture the information from your card’s magnetic strip without your knowledge and get your PIN. The FBI offers tips to avoid being scammed by a skimmer.

Watch that laptop. If you travel with a laptop, keep a close eye on it — especially through the shuffle of airport security — and consider carrying it in something less obvious than a laptop case. A minor distraction in an airport or hotel is all it takes for a laptop to vanish. At the hotel, store your laptop in the safe in your room. If that’s not an option, keep your laptop attached to a security cable in your room and consider hanging the "do not disturb" sign on your door.

Still, despite your best efforts to protect it, your identity may be stolen while you’re traveling. Here’s what you can do.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Comments

This is helpful very much.

I do appreciate these reminders I have gone on a cash basis and use a credit card only at the gas pump,very carefully I might add. There are too many rascals out there and too much credit card info available

This is wonderful information unfortunately too late to report to the police. I did report it to my daughter who blocked it and I then went to my cell provider. It was at the hospital, one glance away from my phone and charger and a woman grabbed it and took off. What would the police here in P.R. do? They don't do much for house burglary, a cell phone ? don't think so but thanks for the info.

You say not to take one's medicare card but a copy; what if something happens and one needs to be treated at a hospital? I doubt they will accept a copy. Thanks

Speaking from personal knowledge. I've used a photo copy in the US and abroad.
Actually ALL hospitals will accept a photo copy of an insurance card. All they need are the numbers, so a photo copy will be fine. Thanks!1

Janet - I agree with you - I don't believe a hospital would accept a photocopy of a Medicare card with info blacked out - they would think you're the fraudster! This is bad advice, in my opinion.

Not if you have legit ID such as a drivers license with the same name that's on your photo copied insurance card. There should be no problem.

Great idea about the social security card, and meidicare card.

Thank You for the tips. Very helpful.We should make notes and keep them in our empty luggage, ready for the next trip.
Jose.

Good information in this blog. About wifi network and my laptop i'm very careless. Will carefull next time. I never think that its a dangerous thing.

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