The holidays are a busy time for travelers, whether you are taking the kids to Grandma’s house or enjoying a relaxing holiday someplace warm. The holidays are also a busy time for hackers looking to do some last-minute shopping using your money. Here’s how to keep your identity safe while traveling:
• Limit your exposure. Just like avoiding sunburns at the beach, avoiding exposure to criminals will help keep your finances and identity safe.
Only take the cash, credit and identity cards you need while traveling and leave the rest at home. Make sure you keep some money separate from the rest — that way, if your wallet or purse gets stolen, you will still have something in your checked bag.
• Credit instead of debit. Bob’s BBQ off Route 9 might be the best ribs in your home town, but do you think the owner spends free time securing the cash register while the meat is slow roasting?
Credit card companies are required by federal law to remove fraudulent transactions from your account, but if a hacker steals money from your checking account via your debit card, it is gone for good. If you want to avoid putting too much on your credit card, you can purchase a pre-paid debit card, which will limit the amount of money a hacker could steal if they get your card numbers.
• Safe surfing. If you are going someplace warmer this winter, you wouldn’t want to surf in dangerous waters, nor should you surf the internet on dangerous networks. Hackers love to target open and guest Wi-Fi at airports, hotels, and coffee shops — anywhere large groups of people gather and don’t pay attention to each other. Never do banking or access other important websites using free or public Wi-Fi, even if there is a password on it. Using “$Bux18” as a password won’t keep hackers from accessing your phone if you connect to public Wi-Fi.
• Check your accounts. Of course, you should keep an eye on your accounts while you’re traveling, especially if you are gone for more than a couple days. Use your cellular data or Wi-Fi at a trusted place, like Grandma’s house, to avoid hacker hotspots.
If you notice any unusual activity, call your bank right away so they can put a freeze on your account. It is also best to notify your bank before traveling so they will not alert when you start spending money in someplace sunny.
• Secure your devices. Large crowds and unattended baggage are prime opportunities for criminals to steal your electronic devices.
In the past, when a criminal stole your wallet, they got your money. If a criminal steals your phone, though, they have access to all sorts of information about you — potentially giving them access to your identity. The best defense is to enable passwords, PINs, fingerprints and any other security for your devices. This will ensure that even if a criminal steals your phone or laptop, they won’t be able to access your personal information.
• Protect your data. Before you travel, make sure you back up any important information from your devices. If you have cloud storage, enable that for any data you create while traveling — that way even if your phone gets stolen, you’ll still have those pictures from Christmas at Grandma’s house.
Traveling around the holidays is already stressful enough, so making sure you bring the right presents, pack for an extended stay with relatives and try to fit two or three more outfits into your bag.
Don’t let hackers add to the stress by leaving you without money at the airport or with a huge bill when you get home. Following a few simple steps to stay secure will make sure your holidays stay full of cheer.