Over 15 million people in the US fell victim to identity fraud in the year 2016, according to a report issued by Experian. Around 33 per cent of that fraud happened while people were travelling. With the progression in technology and the improvement in the security measures that banks and retail merchants use to prevent fraud, committing fraud has become harder for criminals. However, the threat still remains and is even more serious for travellers. Since people tend to carry less cash with them while travelling the most common sort of fraud during travel is credit card fraud.
The sort of ordeal caused by identity fraud is hard to recover from. It generally takes the victims up to a year to solve all issues related to their identity theft. Hardly anyone has that kind of time and financial means to resolve such issues. Travellers are even more prone to falling victim to identity fraud. Some of the reasons why credit card fraud and identity theft are the biggest risk tourists should consider while travelling include;
You Tend to Use Your Credit Cards More Often
It is practically unwise to take a lot of cash while you are travelling. Most importantly, if you are travelling abroad your local currency may not even be of much use in the place you are in. Therefore, your best option for making payments are your credit cards. Consequently, you don’t know the sort of fraud protection measures any given shop or retailer uses in a foreign place.
Additionally, when you are travelling, particularly if you are on a family or vacationing trip you are likely to spend more. Lastly, you may also be using a credit card(s) you don’t normally use and may not be checking its statements on a regular basis. This gives a fraudster more leeway to use your unused credit cardAll these circumstances make your credit card and your financial details more vulnerable to fraud.
You Use Your Smartphone More Frequently
It is understandably more convenient for travellers to use their smartphones rather than taking out their laptops for small tasks. Nowadays, smartphones tend to have hordes of personal data stored in them. According to research, smartphone users are a third more prone to fall victim to identity theft. However, having a smartphone is somewhat of a necessity in this day and age. At the same time, travellers are more likely to have their smartphones misplaced or stolen. The sort of personal and financial information that would become available to a person who finds or steals your phone would be potentially devastating.
You Use Public Wifi Networks
Every time you connect to the WiFi while you are on a trip, you are most likely using a shared or open WiFi network. All such networks are extremely vulnerable and can potentially give access to the owner of the network to everything you open while using their network. Everything you access through an open internet connection including your bank account website, your social media profiles and other online retail stores that you frequent, would potentially be vulnerable to breach. However, using public or shared networks is your only option when you are travelling, but care must be taken while utilising them.
You are in an Unfamiliar and Foreign Place
Travelling is always an unfamiliar experience unless it is a part of your job. Waiting at crowded airports and visiting unfamiliar retail stores makes you more exposed to identity theft and credit card fraud. In addition to that, fraudsters and thieves find it easier to pickpocket tourists. You may also be unaware of the protocols a country/place uses for identity theft or card fraud. At your home, you tend to frequent shops and stores that have ample fraud prevention measures. Stores with good fraud protection usually use tools like digital identity verification and biometric scans to authenticate your credentials. Stores you visit abroad may not have that kind of anti-fraud measures.
You Do Not Check Your Credit Card Statements
When at home, you may be in the habit of regularly checking your credit card or bank statements. But while travelling it is difficult for you to access that information. Although banks usually alert you in case suspicious activity is detected on your credit card, but they may be unable to reach you when you are travelling and it may be too late when you realise. Thus any fraudulent or suspicious activity may go unnoticed for quite some time.
All of the above factors make travellers extremely vulnerable to identity and credit card fraud. They are forced to use public internet connections, carry a number of personal documents (passport, ID cards, credit cards etc.) and use unfamiliar retail stores that may not have any credit card fraud protection measures. Carrying smartphones and using the internet is somewhat of a necessity for people to stay connected. Thus the chances of cybercrimes and fraud have increased tenfolds. Although people nowadays are aware and vigilant enough to protect their identities online. Nonetheless, the above outlined factors make travellers exposed to fraud. However, there are some actionable measures that can be taken that can protect tourists as well.
1. Protect Your Personal Documents
When you are travelling you tend to carry a number of identity documents with you. Same as you do when you are at home, you need to protect your documents abroad while travelling. Never leave your passport or other documents including credit and ID cards in your hotel room when you go out. Be extra careful in taking care of them while you are outside and immediately report in case they are lost or stolen.
2. Use Public Internet Connections with Care
While travelling people have no option but to use public networks. However, the amount of damage they can potentially do can be limited with a little care. Always avoid logging in to your bank accounts or any other profiles that may contain your personal information. If it is absolutely unavoidable, limit the amount of time and details you give and open while on these sites. An even better approach is to use regular 3G or 4G connection through your mobile service provider as they are more secure. Make sure the sites you use have “https” instead of jus “http” in their URL.
3. Inform Your Bank that you are Travelling
Although it may be difficult for you to get any alerts related to fraud while you are travelling, you should make sure you take some precautions. Make sure your bank knows you are travelling so they can implement some extra monitoring to your account and credit card transactions. Provide them with a number or e-mail address, or both that where they can reach you at all times. In case of any mishaps like your card gets stolen or is lost, inform the banks as soon as possible so they can block all transactions.
4. Use Bank ATMs and Reputable Stores
When travelling, it is particularly important that you use ATMs attached to banks as they tend to be more secure. It is easier for fraudsters to install card skimming device in ATMs that are installed publically in convenience stores, hotels or shopping malls. Banks tend to have better security and have cameras installed in ATMs.
5. Take the Time to Check Your Credit Card Statements
You are on a holiday or a vacation with your family and most probably do not want to check your bank or credit card statements. However, it is necessary that you take out a few minutes every once in a while to check them. Nowadays, banks tend to send you your e-statements via e-mail. If you are sceptical about accessing your bank account website on a public WiFi, use a 3G or 4G connection.
6. Keep Your Phone Safe
Phones are more sensitive to being stolen or lost as you carry it with you at all times. Take extra care to protect it when you are travelling. Since phones have more personal information than computers nowadays, you should always use biometric verification to secure them. Moreover, consider deleting sensitive data or apps from your phone like your mobile banking app and social media apps. If you are unwilling to go to the trouble of uninstalling apps, at least make sure you log out of them after using them.
Amelia is a Digital Marketing, PR and Social Media consultant with over nine years experience in the field. She is also a WordPress enthusiast and an active member of WordPress community who is passionate about writing. She has written articles and blogs on a wide range of topics including, travelling, technology, identity theft scams and credit card fraud protection. In love with Twitter, WP, photography and NYC.