Millions of travelers will fall victim to financial fraud schemes this year, whether it’s due to a stolen identity or a lost debit card. In 2016, $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million people in the United States; that’s up from $15.3 billion and 13.1 victims in 2015. But there’s a way to protect yourself.
“Planning and common sense can help make sure vacation fun doesn’t get derailed by criminals,” says Larry Larsen, the director of cyber security at Apple Federal Credit Union. “We are constantly looking for new ways to protect our members’ information and assets.” Larsen says the key is to protect customers without invading their privacy; it’s a tricky balance. “For instance,” he explains, “Apple reissues Visa credit and debit cards at the first sign of fraud, rather than waiting for our members to discover and report the problem.”
Larsen recommends the following steps to people planning a trip in the near future:
1. Tell your financial institution your travel plans. Notifying your bank and credit issuer that charges may be coming from different places, and for unusual amounts, will help ensure that they don’t place a fraud alert on your account and freeze your card.
2. Make use of mobile apps. Downloading the app for your bank, credit card, or credit union can make it easier to contact them on the road, if need be. You can also transfer money and check your account for unusual activity more easily through the app.
3. Stay away from public Wi-Fi. Especially if you’ll be doing any mobile banking, you’ll want to make sure you’re on a secure connection. Otherwise, thieves will have unfettered access to your personal information, passwords, and logins.
4. Don’t post your travel plans on social media. It’s tempting to share your exciting vacation pics on Facebook or Instagram, but doing so can alert people to the fact that you’re away, leaving you vulnerable. Wait until you’re home safe before sharing.
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