In terms of identity theft, data loss and good ol’ fashioned pickpocketing, the holiday season is one of the riskiest times to travel. When it comes to protecting your personal information, thieves and cybercriminals are counting on you to be distracted and make careless mistakes. In 2016, the number of fraud attempts went up by 31% during the holiday season. In addition, credit cards, mobile devices, and open Wi-Fi are common targets throughout the holidays.
Here are a few tips that can help keep you and your family safe from hackers and thieves.
- Hide the Goods - Pickpocketing is an old-world method of theft that is still extremely effective - especially in a hectic environment like an airport during the month of December. A favorite target of pickpockets are smartphones. Travelers should avoid storing any personal belongings, including smartphones, in places that are easily accessible.
- Bring Only Necessities - Between work and personal uses, most adults have at least three mobile devices. In general, bringing all of them with you while traveling isn’t necessary. The more devices along for the trip, the more targets there are for criminals. Travelers are encouraged to bring only the technology they need.
- Free Wi-Fi is Not Free - To conserve mobile data usage, many people are tempted to hop onto Wi-Fi whenever possible without fully comprehending the risks. Some open Wi-Fi access points are easily hacked and you’ll likely have no idea what kind of security the connection will have. It might be a bit costly but using your data instead of open Wi-Fi may save you from having to deal with identity theft in the future.
- Patch It - It’s always a good idea to keep your technology up-to-date with security patches and bug fixes. Many of the large ransomware attacks that made headlines earlier this year could have been avoided by security patches. When traveling, reduce vulnerabilities by patching and updating your software before you leave for your trip.
- Go Phishing - During the holiday, phishing scam emails emulate holiday-centric messages. Scams will often appear to be from legitimate establishments like FedEx or Amazon. They will often ask for account or password information - or offer exclusive coupons that need to be downloaded to use. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid downloading any attachments and never give out your password or account information.
- Skimming a Bit Off the Top - For those of you who aren’t familiar with card skimmers, the premise behind this type of theft is to copy your credit or debit card information by disguising a scanning device on a legitimate source, like a gas pump or ATM. The scammers are then free to use or sell that information. Skimmers are easily overlooked and protecting your information requires constant vigilance. Whenever you’re using a credit card during your holiday travels, look closely at any device that you are going to be swiping your cards on.
*Note: You can access an application designed to help you identify skimmers with your Android device here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=skimmerscammer.skimmerscammer
- Social Media for Burglars - For many, social media is about sharing their good times and memories with friends and family. For thieves, it’s a road map to determine when a home is going to be vacant because their owners are traveling and how long they’re going to be gone for. To eliminate a breaking and entering from your holiday season, avoid posting specifics of your trip information on social media.
Approximately 100 million Americans are going to be traveling this holiday season - meaning that there is no shortage of potential victims. By following these tips, you are taking a proactive approach to keeping your identity and finances safe.