Here are a few tips to consider to protect yourself against travel hackers and scammers.
While most people are concerned about remembering to pack everything or figuring out which attraction to visit on which day during their travels, cybersecurity is seldom a worry that vacationers take seriously. Even if you've never heard of anyone experiencing scammers and hackers severely impacting their trip, that doesn't mean that you aren't susceptible to their actions. There are a wide variety of ways scammers or hackers can lure or trick you into providing them with valuable information that can range from your airline points to credit card numberes. Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to protecting yourself against cyber criminals the next time you're planning to travel:
Beware of vacation deals and coupons
The old adage of "if something sounds too good to be true, then it must be" relates to how most people intending on traveling get scammed or hacked. The easiest way to fall victim to travel-related frauds is by responding to emails, text messages or other forms of contact trying to coax you into booking a vacation, hotel or flight through their services. Jerry Irvine of the National Cyber Security Task Force spoke with CIO.com on how getting too click-happy with your computer mouse can potentially lead to some major hacking problems.
"There's a lot of targeted emails and texts that are going out right now that are coupons or travel-based," Irvine said in an interview with CIO.com. "Websites are showing pictures of facilities that are no longer available or just not even around. They're taking money and then when people get there, there's no reservation for it."
Before you start clicking on links to rental homes or vacation packages that were sent to you via email, you should always do research beforehand. Type in the name of the company in question that's contacting you along with the word "scam" next to it in a Google search, and see if anyone else has posted any complaints or flagged the company as a fraud. In the end, you should always go with your gut. If a website offering incredible deals looks suspicious or an emailed deal seems too good to believe, then ignore and delete it.
Consider a travel agent
While there are many ways travelers can go about booking or reserving whatever they need for a vacation, using a professional, trusted travel agent is always recommended for avoiding getting scammed. These people will only use reputable sources to help you plan out the trip of a lifetime, and it leaves less stress upon you when plotting out the details for a vacation.
Public Wi-Fi spots
When you're trying to use the Internet during your vacation or business travels, always be aware of the network you're connecting to when logging on the Internet. Any free or public networks that don't require a security pin number or password to sign in should always be used with caution, especially when traveling out of the country. Hacking computers from people using public networks can be like catching fish in a barrel for hackers, so consider bringing your own Wi-Fi hotspots along with you or always use trusted sources, like your hotel's Internet connection.
Change your passwords
After you've made any big purchases before or during your vacation, it's never a bad idea to change your passwords as a simple means of being extra cautious. This should especially be considered if you haven't changed passwords to your bank account, email address or other important sites you use that could have valuable personal information on them in quite some time. You should never have the same password for multiple accounts, as if hackers obtain one password, they'll most likely try it out with other sites or services you use. The harder and more intricate your password is, the harder hackers will have to work to access it, so avoid using generic passwords like your birthday or a family member's name.
"Sign up for card charge notifications with your bank."
Set up notifications
Being in good communication with your bank is an easy and reassuring way to be aware of potential fraudulent charges. You can set up online or mobile bank alerts that can email or text you whenever your bank has identified a charge has been made on your credit or debit card. This way, once you see that your card has been charged for something you didn't purchase, you can immediately notify your bank about the error or have the card canceled.
Avoid using technology
While this tip is certainly harder for most people than others, leaving your phone off at the hotel or your laptop unplugged at home is arguably the easiest way to avoid being hacked or scammed while traveling. If you need to carry your phone on you, be sure to turn your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections off, or even keep the phone on airplane mode whenever you're not using it.