Whether it's a family trip to the beach, an exotic honeymoon, or international travel — travel season will be in full swing this summer, starting Memorial Day weekend. According to AAA, about 34.8 million people are expected to travel this holiday weekend.
Summer vacations began as an attempt to disconnect and unwind, but in today's hyper-connected world, most of us are still plugged in; checking email, doing online banking and chatting with friends, all while on vacation.
But being in a vacation state of mind doesn't always translate to a secure state of mind, and criminals are prepared to take advantage of that. The FBI has warned consumers about targeted attacks directed at vacationing travelers. These attacks are by committed by criminals who download malicious software onto the traveler's computer through pop-up windows while the unsuspecting vacationer is establishing an Internet connection in their hotel room.
Attacks like these can happen all too often due to travelers being preoccupied by the details and logistics of the trip and less concerned with securing their information. The last souvenir any vacation-goer wants to come home with is an infected computer or a compromised identity.
Preparing for a trip involves planning and often checklists. Safety and security should be part of that routine, and the preparation needs to begin before you ever leave the house. And remember, just like arriving to the airport on time, it's up to you to take your information and security into your own hands, to proactively protect yourself at home or away.
Here are some tips for travelers to consider when taking their next trip:
- Protect Your Home — Your home not only holds your physical valuables, but also the sensitive documents and electronic records that are so appealing to criminals. Don't leave these sensitive documents or mail out in the open. You may also consider having your mail held at the post office or collected by a trusted friend or family member.
- Don't Post Pictures — It's tempting to share the details and photos of your trip with family and friends in real time through social media channels, but sharing these details on social networking sites like Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Foursquare could give criminals a heads up that your home is vacant, inviting them to pay a visit while you're away. Try to limit the details you share until you're back from your adventure.
- Turn off Geo-Tracking — Don't give criminals information about your location. This tool is just another way thieves can identify a vacant home, so it should be disabled while traveling to limit the visibility into your whereabouts.
- Practice Online Safety — If you need to log into the web from a cyber cafe or other establishment, limit your access, avoid entering any passwords to your personal financial accounts, and be sure to log off when you are finished with your session. If you're browsing the Internet with a wireless connection, do not assume public “hot spots” are secure. Ensure you are using encryption to scramble communications over a network.
- Guard Your Devices — If you are planning to stay connected while you're traveling, protect your device from key loggers, hackers, spammers, and botnets by installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your laptop computer, tablets, and mobile devices. Also be sure to update the software on a regular basis.
- Limit the Number of Credit Cards you Carry — Carrying too many sensitive cards is risky. Carry just one and keep a backup in the hotel safe. Keep a copy of the emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts handy in case they’re lost or stolen.
- Back Up Your Documents — Be sure to make photocopy backups of the cards and documents in your wallet or purse, including credit and ATM cards and your driver's license. In the event that your wallet is stolen, you'll want to have these records available for your bank so they can easily be cancelled. Alternatively, enroll in a card registry program that has your card information on file.
- Alert Your Bank — Especially with international travel, it's a good idea to let your bank know where you are heading. This way, they can alert you of any suspicious activity that doesn't match your itinerary and help minimize damages by freezing accounts.
- Limit Information You Provide Over the Phone — Limit the information you provide to hotels, transportation, etc. over the phone, and opt for an in-person exchange when possible. If you’re staying at a hotel or motel and receive a call from the reception desk asking that you confirm a credit card number, tell them you’ll provide the information at the front desk.
- Monitor Your Activity — If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, consider using a credit and public monitoring service that alerts you to potentially suspicious activity.
Learn more about identity theft protection.