It’s the happiest (and busiest) time of the year. While many people are packing up their presents and heading to the airport, it’s no secret holiday travel is stressful and it’s easy to become distracted. That’s exactly what identity thieves are counting on. After all, a distracted traveler is a ripe target.
Airports transfer travelers from Point A to Point B, but they can also transfer personal information to hackers if you’re not careful. Being aware of thieves’ tricks and tactics will help safeguard your identity and ensure that your trip doesn’t turn into a holiday disaster.
Here are some of the ways you can keep your identity safe when traveling this season.
Contact your credit card before leaving town. It’s important to call or go to your carriers’ website to let them know about your travel plans. This will alert them that you’ll have charges elsewhere, and it helps them flag potentially fraudulent charges in other locations as well. While this may seem like an added hassle, not doing so could potentially give rise to even more hassle It’s simply a good safety measure.
Be weary of public wi-fi. Most travelers take their wi-fi-enabled smartphones, tablets or laptops along on the trip. Logging on to a public network in an airport can be extremely risky. Many airport wi-fi networks are unsecured, leaving personal data visible to thieves and vulnerable to an attack.
Thierry LeVasseur, a Vancouver-based expert on digital security, says airports are breeding grounds for identity theft and suggests travelers should avoid checking their bank accounts as hackers can also see that information. In addition, he says travelers should be sure to erase their internet history and delete any saved files and passwords.
Be sure to verify the authenticity of public networks. Hackers love to set up fake connections, so beware of any generic naming practices, like “airport wi-fi” that can lead travelers to believe they’re connecting to the real thing.
Consider adding a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The basic reason for installing a VPN on your smartphone and laptop is to encrypt any websites you visit. This helps to defend against anyone online who’s trying to steal or monetize your data. A VPN works by installing an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server that’s operated by the VPN. Any external traffic is run through that tunnel so that credit card data and other personal information are safe. This is especially important when using local hotspots like those offered in airports and hotel lobbies.
On a global scale, on average one cyber attack takes place approximately every 39 seconds.
Most people are unaware of the security benefits having and using a VPN can provide, especially when it comes protecting your identity on the internet.
It’s also a good idea for travelers to periodically check their online accounts and statements to check for suspicious activity, but not until they are able to join a secure internet connection. If a traveler finds they have fallen victim to identity theft, they should contact their bank or credit card company immediately.