After several lockdowns and impossible travel restrictions, things seem to have mellowed out and the world is slowly opening up. Still, the COVID-19 virus is not the only threat travelers have to face.
Leaving aside the tourist traps and improper accommodation conditions, as a traveler you’re always the target of thieves, con artists, and (lately) cybercriminals. Identity theft scams are quite common nowadays and you need to pay attention in both offline and online worlds. Check out these identity theft examples to understand the magnitude of this phenomenon.
Luckily, things are not that bad. As long as you are aware of the risks, you also know how to avoid them and stay safe. Therefore, today we’ll talk about ways to avoid identity theft scams (online & offline) aimed at travelers.
#1: The “You Won a Trip” Scam
The phone rings (or you receive an email) and you are informed you’re the happy winner of a trip to an exotic location. The caller talks about major hotels and major airlines but they don’t give out any specific details. Of course, in order to get your prize, you will have to provide them with your social security number or credit card information (for “verification purposes”).
Once you do, your identity is compromised. Scammers will use every bit of information they can snatch from you to build a profile which will later be used to open up credits, buy expensive items, use your health insurance, and more.
Here’s how to spot this sort of scam:
- You haven’t entered any contests
- The caller asks you to disclose sensitive information such as the social security number
- You feel pressured to provide them with the data they’re requesting
- You can’t collect the price until you make a payment
- It sounds too good to be true
Whenever you are in doubt, regardless of the situation, tell them you want to get more information about their campaign. Ask questions regarding the destination, the contest you supposedly won, and so on. If they don’t provide clear data and facts, this is most likely a scam.
#2: Stay Safe While Traveling
Sure, it’s a bit exhausting to be on guard all the time, but it’s the best way to avoid identity theft while traveling.
Here are a few actions and precautions any traveler should take in order to have fun and enjoy their trip:
- Never leave documents and sensitive data in the bags you check in. Keep everything of value in your carry-on bag!
- Don’t leave personal documents lying around the hotel room. Always use the hotel safe for important documents, money, devices, and so on.
- Keep your laptop in your line of sight. If you have to use it in the airport or at the hotel, make sure you never leave the laptop out of your sight. Thieves have sticky fingers and know how to take advantage of any moment of confusion.
- Always pay using cash or card (avoid checks for as much as possible). Checking account fraud is very difficult to recover from, especially when you can’t take any immediate actions.
- When you’re out, exploring the destination, keep money, papers, and devices close to your body. The closest these items are to your skin, the more difficult it will be for a thief to grab them.
- Use only ATMs that are inside banks. While other machines are usually safe, they are also easiest to corrupt and equip with credit card cloning devices.
- Pay close attention to your devices, especially your smartphone. In today’s day and age, a smartphone contains tons of personal information that can be exploited by scammers.
As you can see, many of the actions that keep you safe while traveling are common sense. Therefore, once you integrate these into your traveling habits,
#3: Stay Safe Online
The online environment is equally risky (if not more) when it comes to identity theft scams. Our devices are a valuable source of sensitive information, which is why cyber criminals find them incredibly appealing.
Here’s how to stay safe while traveling:
- Use a reliable VPN when you connect to public WiFi networks (airports, cafes, hotels, and so on). The VPN encrypts your online activity and hides it from anyone who might be spaying a network.
- Make sure all your devices have up-to-date, solid, security software installed.
- Never use a public computer to access your bank account or social media accounts.
- Avoid posting on social media while on vacation. You’ll have plenty of time to post when you get home.
- If you must use a public computer or someone else’s device, erase your online history once you’re done or, better yet, access the internet using incognito mode.
It is a bit scary to think about all the things that could go bad when you’re far from home. Still, once you learn how to stay away from trouble, it becomes easier to navigate the world without too many unpleasant incidents.