Tips & Advice

Don't Let Credit Card Fraud Wreck Your Summer Vacation

While you’re distracted with hotel check-ins, sunbathing, mini-golf or dinner plans, cyber crooks may be targeting your cards for their own pleasure and profit. To help protect your plastic, it comes down to a few key tips. Here are four ways to help defend your cards from thieves.

1. Find a way to balance cash and credit
For years it’s been suggested that we don’t carry a lot of cash when we travel, and that’s still very good advice. However, Larry Larsen, director of cyber security for Apple Federal Credit Union shares that, “An over-reliance on credit cards can also backfire, especially if you only have one card for all your spending.

The reason is, if that one card gets compromised, you could be stuck without an alternative until you get it replaced. Bring multiple cards with you when traveling, and store them in different places for added security.”

2. Set a travel alert
Banks and credit unions are getting better at detecting potentially bogus transactions and blocking them – and the card – until things are sorted out. After all, if you live in Virginia and a charge is made in Cancun, your first purchase may be blocked by your servicer, thinking the card’s been stolen.

“Before you travel, even if you’re only crossing the state line, it’s best to contact your financial institution. Provide a rough itinerary, and make sure you have their contact information too”, shares Larson.

Pro Traveler Tip
Add your credit and debit card emergency contact number to your cell phone or keep a list in your suitcase. You’ll no longer have the credit card on you when you call and alert the companies of the theft.

3. Take advantage of digital wallet security
Digital wallets like those provided by smartphone providers are a good way to track payment history. Most smartphones these days feature biometric security (fingerprints, face recognition, etc.) to protect your device, so keeping your card information stored on your phone may actually be safer than keeping the plastic cards in your wallet.

4. Practice safe online shopping
Use caution when using a credit or debit card to make an online purchase. To improve your security, keep these three important tips in mind:

  1. Limit your online buying to companies that you know, or that a friend trusts.
  2. Make sure that when you enter your credit card information for payment, the web page URL must start with “https://” in the address bar, instead of just “http://”; to confirm that the page is secure and your information can’t be intercepted.
  3. Never buy anything when you’re connected to a public wireless network, like a coffee shop or hotel. Always assume that anything you do on public Wi-Fi is being watched by someone. Look into Virtual Private Network (VPN) applications you can use on your mobile device to provide end-to-end security, even on public networks.
5. Never share your information
One last year-round tip you should always follow – NEVER give your credit or debit card information to someone who calls or emails you, even if it’s a company you know and may already do business with. Just politely tell them you’re not comfortable giving them that information and, if they need it, you will call them back from their main phone number.

Use common sense and these simple tips to help handle and secure your cards at all times, but especially when you’re on vacation. That way, while you’re on vacation, you can focus on important things. Like which restaurant serves the best crab cake.

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