Spring is just around the corner. How do you plan to enjoy the blooming season?
If you’ve experienced a particularly long and frigid winter, you may be interested in planning a spring getaway. What could be better than a vacation where you won’t have to deal with massive summer crowds?
But before you get started on planning, make sure you give some thought to your security — particularly the security of your identity. Vacations are a time when people tend to let their guard down, and this puts them at risk for identity theft.
Hotel and restaurant data breaches are on the rise
One big problem for travelers is that data breaches are becoming more common at hotels and restaurants — two places where travelers are almost guaranteed to visit and spend money.
In 2015, major hotel chains, such as Hilton Worldwide and the Trump Hotel Collection, suffered data breaches that exposed the identities and credit card information of thousands of guests. Investigations after the fact revealed that hackers infected hotel computers with malware to steal credit card numbers. In addition, high-profile breaches were reported at a number of restaurants last year. Landry’s Inc., a restaurant conglomerate with more the 500 locations, recently announced that it was targeted by a data breach last year. The company runs popular chain restaurants like Rainforest Cafe.
Why are hotels and restaurants being targeted so frequently? Part of the problem is that their point-of-sale systems contain unique weaknesses that are related to how these establishments do business. Hotels, for instance, typically take down a customer’s credit card number when they check in and hold it until charging for the stay during checkout. The problem, as pointed out by an article in Payments Source, is that this offers hackers a known target.
In addition, both industries rely on a large number of employees and regularly experience high rates of turnover. This means that it is even harder than normal to secure all possible avenues for theft. Not only is it difficult to ensure that every single employee handles customer data honestly, but it is a challenge to ensure that they are trained in proper data handling techniques.
The risk of having your identity stolen while on vacation isn’t necessarily a reason to stay home. But travelers should keep it in mind and take steps to reduce their risk.
Travelers must be prepared for the possibility identity theft
Often, when people are on vacation, they tend to relax. That’s the point of going on vacation! But it also means that they may be paying less attention to things like their credit card statements. It’s important for travelers to check these frequently (on a secure Internet connection) to make sure that there are no unidentified transactions.
In fact, depending on where you are traveling, it might be safer to simply carry cash. ATMs operated by your bank will be the most secure way to withdraw the money you need, and you’ll avoid handing your credit card number out too oftent. Most hotels will no longer let you rent a room for the night without holding a card, so use a credit card instead of a debit card in case you have to resolve any fraudulent charges.
Of course, there is no way to completely secure yourself from the possibility of identity theft. But you can still be proactive before taking your next trip. Consider investing in an identity theft protection service, which will monitor your credit file, Social Security Number and public records, and notify you of certain activity that may be indicative of fraud.