After numerous months of holding off on vacations, many individuals and families are getting ready to travel again. Enjoying new experiences, exploring the area, and potentially a bit of downtime are likely on the travel agenda. They’re excited to travel and see something new. And as travel ramps up, cybercriminals are ramping up too – interested in taking advantage of the upcoming travel plans and focused on stealing credit card information.
Why Do Cybercriminals Target Travelers?
Oftentimes, when we head out on vacation, it’s because we need a break, need time to unwind, or time to relax. We put our “regular life” on hold and enjoy what’s around us – sample new foods, purchase things we may not normally purchase or become more adventurous. In other words, we let our guards down a bit to enjoy our time traveling. Cybercriminals know this and try to take advantage of our relaxed mindset.
How Do Cybercriminals Target Travelers?
Credit card numbers can be an easy target for cybercriminals, especially when looking forward to an upcoming vacation or on the excursion itself. Consider these top opportunities for hackers.
Phishing & Spoofing
You’ve booked your travel plans through your favorite airline and have your hotel all set. And when an email comes through from one of your favorite retailers announcing a sale on something that will make your trip that much better, you click. Yep, hackers love to rely on phishing emails to grab your attention and entice you to click on a link. Once you click, you are taken to a website that appears to be your favorite retailer when it’s actually a spoofed website waiting for you to place your order using your credit card.
Keep an eye out for these types of emails. If the sale looks too good to be true, it probably is. When receiving these emails, your best course of action is to go directly to the retailer’s website (without clicking the link in the website). That way, you know you are going to the appropriate website vs. a potentially very realistic spoofed website.
You did your due diligence, typed in the link, and made your purchase. Why not have the retailer store your credit card info, just in case you decide you need something else? Unfortunately, many cybercriminals target large retailers with the goal of stealing a database full of credit card info. It’s kind of a jackpot situation for them and a horrible situation for those that made a purchase from that retailer.
Avoid storing your credit card info with retailers. In addition, consider using a virtual credit card that enables you to make your purchase without including your credit card information. If you do use a credit card, monitor it for fraudulent activity. If you notice something suspicious, freeze it and place a fraud alert on it.
You’re enjoying your travel location and, at some point, need to stop for gas or take cash out of the ATM. It’s not your usual gas station or ATM, so you’re not too familiar with what the machine looks like, but you’re in vacation mode, so you swipe. Ugh! A cybercriminal installed a skimming device, and once you swipe, they collect your credit card information.
Even when you are traveling, stay alert when fueling up or withdrawing cash from the ATM. Examine any outdoor readers before using them. If it looks like something is awkwardly attached, or if something just doesn’t look right, do not use it. Go into the gas station to pay and/or look for a different ATM machine.
While you’re enjoying your breakfast at a local outdoor restaurant, you decide to hop on your phone and purchase tickets for a local activity. Naturally, you type in your credit card info, and you’re all set. And so is the guy sitting behind you, who was either watching you enter your credit card info or recording it with his phone.
It’s always a good idea to put up some type of shield when entering your credit card information, or using your PIN at the ATM. Use your hand, a piece of paper or your body to block others from seeing the numbers that you are typing/entering.
You’re relaxed. You’re enjoying your vacation and jump on the public Wi-Fi to purchase take-out from a local restaurant. You pop in your credit card and make plans to pick up your dinner. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi is easy pickings for a hacker. Many cybercriminals find ways to hack the available Wi-Fi or clone the Wi-Fi, so it looks like you are using the hotel’s Wi-Fi when you are not.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid public Wi-Fi, but if you must use it, do not enter any private information, account information or your credit card info.
You decide to download an app that provides details on the best things to do while visiting your vacation spot. But the app is from a source you’re not aware of, and it’s not in the Apple or Google Play store – you download it anyway, and in the process malware or spyware is also downloaded to your phone. Now, hackers are able to access stored information or use a keylogger, which records your keystrokes and/or browser history.
Stick with authorized apps from the Apple or Google Play store. Read their reviews, and take some time to investigate who created the apps. A little bit of time spent up-front to ensure the app is legitimate can save you a lot of hassle.
How Do I Prevent Cybercriminals From Targeting Me?
Now that you know how cybercriminals target travelers let us dig into ways that you can prevent being targeted so you can enjoy your vacation!
- Invest in a credit monitoring tool
- Set up alerts from your bank/credit card to notify you of suspicious activity
- Avoid saving your credit card information on websites
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication across your accounts
- While on vacation, charge items/meals to your room when possible
- Consider using a credit card that can be turned on, and off, via an app
- Use pre-paid debit cards while traveling (do not use a debit card attached to your bank account)
- Use cash on vacation instead of your credit card
- If you use your credit card, ensure it is equipped with an EMV security chip
- If you will be using your credit card, bring only the card you plan to use (and one back-up) – leave the rest at home
- Review all account information once you return from vacation for any unauthorized activity
Going on vacation, and traveling, is fun. Do not let cybercriminals take that fun away from you by creating opportunities for them to steal your credit card information. Stay cautious, and implement the tips noted above to crush their hopes of enjoying things on your dime.
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