Don’t Let Data Thieves Spoil Your Vacation

Nothing… spoils a hard-earned vacation, or a critical business trip faster than fraud. Hotel theft, ATM skimming, pick pockets. Do you want to know how to be the safest, most relaxed traveler on the tour? Here are a handful of tips to protect yourself, and more importantly, to give you the peace of mind you deserve during your time away.

I’m John Sileo, and this is Sileo on Security onsite in Las Vegas, THE FINEST place in America to lose your money. But you should be able to choose how you lose it. Listen, you don’t want to spend your trip worrying about your laptop being stolen out of the hotel room, your debit card being skimmed by a dishonest waiter or by having your bank login intercepted over a free wifi hotspot. When we travel, we pack our wallet and gadgets to the gills, and in turn, our data is at risk. Identity thieves take advantage of how distracted we are getting on and off planes, in and out of cabs, and back and forth to the café for our coffee. So, here are the first few steps you need to take, whether you’re a road warrior or beach bum, to protect your assets.

This is going to sound old school, but pack some cash! Seriously, you have less overall exposure when you pay with cash or travelers checks and leave your credit card for when you run out of money. Hide your debit card in a zippered pocket or bag until you absolutely need it. When you do need it, make sure there isn’t a skimming device attached to the ATM by wiggling anything that sticks out of the machine. Look behind you for shoulder surfers capturing your PIN number on their cell phone camera and always shield your PIN from the telephoto lens on the grassy knoll behind you. And as I learned from my parents, never allow the friendly Frenchman at the ATM to help you with your ATM transaction.  It’s probably fraud.

Next. Cell phones, tablets and laptops can disappear so easily while on a trip, so either keep them with you, or in the safe in your hotel room. Now, someone working in that hotel has the code to that safe, so for additional protection, put the privacy sign on the door, call house keeping and tell them you don’t need service that day and keep all the good bits with you. If you can, leave the laptop at home, travel only with your smartphone and keep it in your front pocket protected by a passcode that’s not your kid’s birthdate!

Finally, I  recommend that you never use the hotel computers, or any public computer for that matter, including checking in for a flight. These computers often have key logging software that captures all of your information and sends it off to criminals, including the password to your mileage account. Whatever you do, don’t type anything sensitive, or log into your bank or your email account on a public computer. Instead, use technology to your advantage – check in on your smartphone with an airline app and get a digital boarding pass. It’s encrypted and way safer. Your smartphone, if well-protected, is your greatest tool on the road. By the way, those free WiFi hotspots are highly attractive places for thieves to eavesdrop and track your online activity. Stay away from them and surf on your smartphone data plan.

Here’s your One Minute Mission.  If you are getting ready to travel, especially if you are going overseas, I want you to call your mobile phone provider, boost your data plan and your international calling access.  This will increase your bill for the time that you are traveling, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the fraud that comes from computing on someone else’s network.  That’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes from staying in touch.

I hope you’ll take these easy tips, enjoy your upcoming trips and join me again for Sileo on Security.