5 Ways to Prevent Credit Card Fraud When Traveling
By Tracy L. Hirsch
Whether you’re planning a trip abroad or you’re staying in the U.S., it’s important to remember that credit card fraud and identity theft is a risk now more than ever. Here are the top ways to minimize that risk.
Summer is in full swing, and it’s the best time to travel. The kids are out of school, and the coats, scarves, and gloves can be replaced with SPF, bathing suits, and beach toys. While summertime is a wonderful season for a getaway, the fun can quickly be derailed due to a stolen credit card or compromised financial information.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for travelers to have their personal data stolen, especially when traveling abroad. Identity theft happens every two seconds, and many of those instances directly involve stolen credit cards.
Here are five ways to protect you and your family from becoming part of this statistic!
1.) Let your bank know that you plan on traveling.
If you’re going to be traveling to an area that’s outside of your local residency (such as another state or another country), it’s best to alert your local bank. While some banks require this and some banks don’t, it can’t hurt to call or to fill out an online travel notification. This is good for two reasons.
One, your bank won’t freeze your account when they see transactions in Paris when you’re the one who’s making those transactions. Two, your bank will freeze your account if they see transactions in Paris and you’re in Canada.
Every two seconds, someone is the victim of identity theft. This risk greatly increases when you’re traveling.
2.) Don’t log into financial accounts on unsecured networks.
If you need to transfer money, check your account balance, or make an online purchase when traveling, make sure that your laptop or smart phone is connected to a secure Wi-Fi network.
While it’s tempting to use free Wi-Fi at coffee shops and hotels, those are not secure. It’s best to invest in a wireless router to ensure that you have a separate private network when connecting your computer or phone.
They’re actually pretty simple to set up, are affordable, and have WP2 encryption (which is the best kind to have). This allows you to have much greater protection against credit card fraud, and is way less risky than using Wi-Fi that doesn’t have a hot spot to connect to.
3.) Only use bank ATMs.
If you’re in need of cash and want to use your debit card, be extremely cautious, especially when traveling in other countries. Hidden card skimming devices are usually attached to ATMs that are found in gas stations, near amusement parks, and other locations where they are free-standing.
It’s best to use an ATM that is inside of a bank, since the likelihood of a becoming a victim to a skimming device is a lot lower. It’s also best to use a bank ATM during normal business hours. That way, if something happened to your card (if it got stuck in the ATM, for example, or didn’t give you all of the cash that you withdrew), you would have the resources to address it.
4.) Keep your smart phone locked at all times.
While having smart phones at our fingertips makes transactions much quicker and more efficient, there is a much higher risk of financial fraud involved. Mobile apps that are related to your bank (mobile access to checking, savings, and credit cards), ride share apps (Lyft, Uber, etc.), payment services (Square, Venmo, etc.) create a high level of financial vulnerability if your phone gets into the wrong hands.
At the very least, you should have your phone’s lock screen should be password protected. It’s best to use a six-digit number instead of the usual four, since that makes it much harder to guess what it is. You should also set up a fingerprint ID for added security.
Furthermore, you should absolutely makes sure that you turn on remote tracking. (If you have an Android, it’s called “Find My Device.” If you have an iPhone, it’s called “Find My iPhone.”)
This not only ensures that you’ll be able to find the exact location of your phone (and then call the police, as it’s not wise to confront the thief on your own!), but it also allows you to wipe out your apps remotely so that your financial information cannot be accessed even if your phone is hacked.
To really go the extra mile, make sure that you back up your phone before you travel, just in case you have to wipe out all of your private information!
5.) Check your bank statements daily.
When you get back to the hotel room every night, make sure that through a secured network, you look at all of the transactions on your card from that day. Keeping track of your purchases will help you quickly identify any fraudulent charges in the event that someone got a hold of your physical card or just the card number itself.
In addition, it’s best to have a printed list of all of your financial institutions’ customer service numbers in case your wallet and/or phone are stolen. Keep a copy in your hotel room and your wallet so that you have immediate access to those numbers.
While summer vacations are fun, it’s always wise to take preventative measures to try to keep it that way! Do you have any other tips for protecting yourself financially while traveling? Let us know in the comments below!
All the Best,
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