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Travel Safety Tips Part 4

You’ve made it home safely after braving gastronomic adventures at greasy spoons, drinking from questionable water sources, and surviving white-knuckled taxi rides.  Now, post those vacation pictures on social media and wrap up the loose ends of protecting your identity.

Monitor Your Accounts: Shortly after you return from your travels, pay special attention to your account statements to make sure that nothing out of the ordinary appears. If a credit card number or bank account number was stolen during your trip, this is how you will catch it early and keep it from becoming a major nightmare. Contact your provider and alert them to the breach immediately.

Get a credit report: Hopefully you’ve monitored your accounts throughout the trip.  When you get home, request a report at www.annualcreditreport.com.  Check your credit report for any suspicious activity. Even if you don’t see any unfamiliar transactions, that still doesn’t mean you’re safe.Identity thieves are known to take their time and act when you least expect it, so continue monitoring!

Rotate Your Account Numbers: If you feel like your identity might have been compromised (e.g., your credit card number stolen), call your financial institution and have them issue a new card. This makes the old number obsolete, should anyone try to use it in the future.  Also, turn off your dedicated travel ATM/debit card.

If you have used your international data plan, be sure to turn it off.

Pick Up the Mail: Don’t leave it in anyone else’s hands any longer than necessary. Make sure you shred any mail that you no longer need.

(Click here if you missed the first three posts: “Planning Your Trip”, “Before you go” or “On the Road”.)

I know this may seem like a LOT to do, but the peace of mind you will have knowing you’ve done all you can to protect yourself will make your vacation just that much more enjoyable.  Happy trails!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Travel Safety Tips Part 3

Welcome to the third (and longest!) part of our four-part series on travel safety. We’ve covered “Planning Your Trip” and what to do “Before You Go” Today we’ll go through the many important things to consider while you’re “On the Road”.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for our final installment of what to do “When You Return”.

 

 

1.  Travel Light: 

If you don’t have to take it with you, increase your safety and leave it at home. This includes:

Checkbooks: Do not carry checks or take only one or two for an emergency, placing them with your cash in your money belt. Checking account takeover is one of the simplest crimes to commit and one of the most devastating types of financial fraud from which to recover. The easy alternative? Use a credit card or cash.

Debit cards: You can reduce your vulnerability to having your checking account plundered while on vacation by leaving all debit cards (check cards) at home. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Debit/ATM cards are safe just because they have a PIN or password. Be aware, too, that debit cards don’t have the same financial fraud protections as most credit cards.

The Solution?  Actually, you have two!  You can get a nameless, travel-only ATM/debit card with a 4 digit pin from your bank.  Or you can ask your bank for an ATM-Only debit card (it won’t work in stores, only at an ATM) and make sure your password isn’t seen by roaming eyes when you are at the ATM.

Better yet, use a credit card or cash.  The exception to this is when you are traveling in a foreign country and your debit card is the most efficient way of obtaining cash from an ATM.

Excess credit cards:  Every piece of identity you take with you creates more avenues for potential fraud. I recommend that if you are traveling with another adult, you each take one credit card. (If possible, take cards from two different credit card companies. That way, you each carry only one card that can be lost or stolen, but you have a backup card if the other person’s card is lost, stolen or shut down because of fraud).  Make sure that your credit card company knows the dates and places you are traveling so that they don’t shut it down when charges are made out of town. Also, make sure you have a large enough credit line to cover your purchases while traveling. You can ask for a phone number you can call from overseas if your card doesn’t list one. The 800 number on the back of your card might not work outside the U.S.

Social Security card: It is not necessary to have your Social Security card while traveling (or at any time other than your first day of work with a new employer), so leave it locked up at home.

Bills: Don’t try to take bills to pay while traveling.
 Instead, schedule all payments before you go.

Identity Documents: Leave birth certificates, passports (unless travelling internationally), library cards, receipts, etc. at home while you travel. Anything you don’t absolutely need should be left at home locked in a fire safe. If you can travel with only a credit card, driver’s license and health insurance card (as long as it doesn’t have your SSN on it), you will be much safer.  Also, don’t put all of your info on your luggage.  A last name and phone number will suffice.

Boarding Passes: Tear up and throw away used boarding passes (or shred if you can). Those boarding passes so many of us leave behind in airplanes or hotels often contain full names and other personal information.

Excess digital gadgets: The more gadgets you bring, the more potential for theft.  Keep it simple.

2.  Guard your devices

Passcodes: Smartphones and tablets carry as much information as laptops. Turn on the auto-lock passcode to keep others out of your data.  Also make sure that your laptop computer has long, strong, alpha-numeric password encryption(BitLocker for Windows, FileVault for Mac).

Public Access Internet Facilities: While using your laptop to access online banking or other password-protected services from Wi-Fi networks, be sure the Wi-Fi hotspots are secure. If you’re using a public computer in hotel business centers or cyber-cafes, never access any sensitive information.  Key-loggers (software that can track your keystrokes) may be tracking you.
 Better yet, install tethering between your mobile phone and tablet or laptop so that you are surfing securely.

Ask for Privacy: Instead of leaving oodles of data exposed in your hotel room (a major source of theft), hang your privacy sign on the door and let house cleaning know that you do not want to be disturbed. Lowering traffic lowers risk.

Have a plan for a stolen phone: Enable your phone’s GPS locator and “wipe” function (if available). Many phones have a setting you can switch on that helps you locate the phone via GPS if it’s stolen. Similarly, the “wipe” feature will let you wipe your data clean if it’s stolen.

Social Media:  Turn off your location settings and try to refrain from gloating about your glorious trip by posting pictures until you’ve returned safely home.

3. Use the hotel safe

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of using the in-room safes that are now a part of almost every hotel room. They are easy to use and significantly increase traveling safety (decreasing theft by cleaning staff and other travelers). In addition to your traditional items such as jewelry or extra cash, use them for:

All important devices: your laptop, cell phone, tablet, iPod, thumb drive, etc.

Passports: Unless you are traveling in a country where you it is mandatory to keep your passport with you at all times, lock it up in the safe the whole time you are staying at the hotel.

Other Identity Documents: Store your plane tickets, receipts, and any other identity documents (birth certificates, extra credit cards, visa, etc.) in the safe when not in use.

4.  Beware of scams

Hotel credit card scam: The way this typically works is that while you are sleeping, you receive a call “from the hotel’s front desk”.  The pleasant “night clerk” informs you their system has crashed and they need your credit card number to complete a night audit.  Do not give them your information over the phone.  If they don’t relent,  walk down to the desk!

Message about fraud: If you get a phone call or e-mail about suspicious activity on your card, call the customer service number on the back of your credit card instead of automatically calling back the number on the message.  That’s a common ploy by ID thieves to capture personal information. If the call was legitimate, you will be connected to the appropriate department.

5.  Other Time-tested Tips

Mind the Lions at the Watering Hole: Increase your awareness in airports, hotels, conferences and restaurants.  Remember, where there is a crowd, there is a pickpocket, just waiting for you to be too busy with your camera or map to notice their activities. Be on the lookout also for untrustworthy passengers on the plane, especially shoulder surfers who watch you enter login credentials, PINs, credit card numbers and other personal data on your laptop, smartphone or tablet in the hopes of catching something they can use later to steal your identity.

Carry it Safely: I recommend carrying all of your identity documents (passport, credit card, driver’s license, tickets, etc.) in a travel pouch that fits around your neck or your waste (and inside of your clothing). It is a minor inconvenience, but it lowers instances of pick pocketing and unintentional misplacement. Thieves have unbelievably nimble fingers that can slip into your pocket or purse undetected so here’s an essential habit to cultivate: just before you leave your hotel room (especially in cities), verify that your money pouch is securely fastened around your waist or neck, under your clothes.

Use a Backpack: When possible, carry laptops and other large identity-storing items in a backpack that stays zipped and on your back at all times. It is easy to set down a purse, book bag or piece of luggage while at a ticket counter or retail store. Backpacks, on the other hand, are easy to keep on our person at all times, and are harder to break into without alerting the wearer.

Watch Your Cards: When paying with a credit card in a restaurant, try to keep your eye on the card. If the server removes it from sight, they may be able to create a “clone” by using a portable card skimmer that will copy the information from the card’s magnetic strip. Many restaurants are now able to process the card at your table or you can take it to the register and observe the transaction.

 ATM Machines: Use your “ATM Only” card (one that requires a PIN and does not contain a Visa or MasterCard logo) at ATM machines found at banks or credit unions that are in well-lit areas. Be sure to examine the ATM machine carefully for signs of tampering. Be on the lookout for anything that looks suspicious. Save all transaction receipts in a specific envelope to make it easy to reconcile your bank statement when you arrive home.

Use a Dedicated Travel E-mail Address: I shake my head every time when I see messages arrive from overseas via work e-mail accounts. If someone gets access to your work e-mail account, the amount of damage they could do to your livelihood is inestimable. Certainly there are times when you need to log in to your work account, but you will want to use caution in the extreme at those times.

My suggestion is to use a personal e-mail address when possible while traveling, one at which you store no sensitive information and at which a fake log-in won’t be disastrous, and communicate from that e-mail address exclusively. On occasion you will see addresses like johndoetravelemail@gmail.com; this travel-exclusive e-mail method can work quite well.

If you’re not using Bluetooth, turn it off: Some thieves can “hack” into your phone through Bluetooth, so if you’re not actively using it, turn it off!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Travel Safety Tips Part 2

This is part two of our four-part series on travel safety.  Yesterday we covered “Planning Your Trip” and in the next few days we’ll discuss “On the Road” and “When You Return”.  For today, we’ll look at steps to take after your trip is planned, but before you go.

Photocopy the contents of your wallet/documents: Or make a list of all the contents and all your travel documents to carry with you in a protected place as you travel. It’s also a good idea to leave a copy at home with a trustworthy person whom you can contact. It will save you hours of frustration if anything is lost or stolen.

Protect your accounts: Place a travel alert on your credit card accounts so the bank will know why charges from some lovely resort are suddenly showing up.  You can also freeze your credit so no new accounts can be opened while you are away.   Finally, turn on automatic account alerts on your credit card to easily monitor all transaction (via smartphone) without having to look at statements.

Hold the Mail: Your mailbox is an identity jackpot. Before you leave, place a “postal hold” on your mail so that your mailbox isn’t susceptible while you are gone. Arrange with your post office that you (or your spouse) are the only people allowed to pick up your mail. Don’t have it “mass-delivered” the day after you return, as this puts everything at risk all at once. Instead, pick it up at the post office once you return.  (Hold your newspaper, too, so you’re not publicizing that no one is home.)

Social Networking Sites: Don’t post your “Going on Vacation” status on your social networking sites just as you wouldn’t tack a note about it to your front door. Broadcasting this news opens the door to criminals using that information while you are away. Think twice about anything you share on social networking sites.

Secure your home: Of course you will lock all your doors and secure your windows, but make sure you also check your office and other places where you might have identity-rich information sitting around. Store all important documents and items, maybe even your external hard drive with all of your files backed up on it, in a locked safe. 

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Travel Safety Tips Part 1

Today I begin a four-part series on travel safety to protect your identity before during and after your trip.  I’ve tried to make this series comprehensive for all stages of travel.  Today we’ll cover Planning Your Trip  , to be followed in days to come by:  Before You GoOn the Road and When You Return.

While you may be aware of the basics, the lists in these blogs show you how to think like the criminals think.  Be proactive and outwit them at their own game!

Use a legitimate agency: Verify the business you are booking your trip through. If you are going to use a travel agency or online booking company, make sure they are authentic first. Go online and do your research – if people have been swindled before by the company, the Internet is the first place they will go to vent. You can even ask the company for references so you can check up on some satisfied customers.  Also, investigate the travel companies with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and the attorney general’s office in the state where the company does business. (www.naag.org).

Read everything carefully before you sign: Sometimes there are concealed fees or clauses where they can change the airport you are flying into or out of without telling you – even up to 100 miles away!  Make sure you know the airline and hotel before signing. This way you can confirm their legitimacy. Feel free to contact them and make sure that this is a great deal.

Always pay with a credit card: Reputable credit card companies allow you to dispute fraudulent charges so that you are not held liable for the money. If the company requires you to pay with cash or check or money order, GO SOMEPLACE ELSE! Legitimate travel companies will let you use a credit card.

Make sure you get EVERYTHING in writing: If your unbelievable deal does turn out to be a rip-off, you will need something to show the credit card company in order to dispute the charges.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is: If they are offering you a flight to Mexico that is regularly $500 for $100, then chances are, it’s a scam. While there are great ways to book your hotel + flight + food + drink together to save money, most don’t offer an 80% discount!  Don’t be afraid to try a website like TripAdvisor.com to do some background investigation.

Buy directly from the companies themselves: This includes airline, hotel, transportation, tickets, etc. Many times the actual companies promise the cheapest possible fare on their own website (United does this, for example). Even if it does cost you a bit more, you will sleep better at night knowing that your trip is booked and confirmed.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Social Networking Safety – Travel

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Identity theft and social networking speaker John Sileo discusses what you should and should not reveal through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social networking sites while traveling. When you are away from home, identity creeps and other thieves can use this knowledge to take advantage of your home or office.

Be conscious of what you share on social networking sites and always remember that what you post is public, permanent and exploitable!

Order your copy of the Facebook Safety Survival Guide to make sure you and your children are protected online.

John Sileo became one of America’s leading Social Networking Speakers & sought after Identity Theft Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.