It seems like every day I talk to or hear about someone else who has had their credit card number compromised. Yes, protections are in place to prevent unauthorized charges from being made and credit card companies are good about taking those off your account. But the inconvenience of getting a replacement card, especially when traveling, is annoying to say the least. In the past, we have recommended having a specific card to use only for travel and to carry a backup card, just in case the credit card company has to shut your card down. Unfortunately, that advice is no longer sufficient in today’s world of cyber crime. New credit card precautions cover a far larger range of what might happen to any of us, regardless of where we travel. In this first of a series, we take another look at what can be done to travel safely, beginning with hotels.
When we check into a hotel, no matter how it was booked, the first thing the front desk requests is a credit card for the room for any incidentals. We hand over our card without thinking twice. After all, we need to check in and a card is required to do so. But before just grabbing any card out of your wallet, think about that for a moment.
Hotels keep records of phone calls guests make, movie watching habits, room service orders and any other data for additional charges they might need make a stay more convenient. This information is valuable to criminals as well. Known as a “Fullz” record of an individual, thieves buy and sell this information because it can serve to assist in identity theft or answer online authentication questions for hacking into someone’s accounts.
Travel Safely Tips
Before paying for another hotel reservation, considering the following safeguards to keep financial and personal information safe.
- Dedicated Card- Get a credit card that is only used to pay for travel including airfare and hotel reservations.
- Protect Identity– Skip out on some of the conveniences offered by hotels including room service, free Internet access, long-distance calls and other fee-based services that are tied to the card used to pay for the room.
- Reloadable Cards- If booking a hotel stay online, do not use a regular credit card. Go to a local supermarket and purchase a reloadable card instead. Use the throwaway card to pay for the booking.
- Secure Connections- Make sure you are using a secured connection to websites when available. A simple “s” (https:// instead of http:// in your web browser’s URL bar) will protect you from most threats local and remote.
- Change Passwords– Create temporary passwords for sites you plan on accessing while travelling. It is estimated that 60% of people use the same password, or a variation of one, for every account. If you get hacked while traveling, having a temporary “throwaway” password for email or social media will prevent a headache of worry over if your home accounts were compromised.
- Bring your own computer. Do not use the shared terminal in a hotel business center. You never know what the person who used the computer five minutes before you might have loaded onto it and it could be running programs watching your every move.
- Don’t lose that room card. Sometimes your credit card information is stored on the magnetic strip and is easily decoded if the room card is lost. Ask at the front desk if you can get a child-safe keycard without any purchasing power and carry that around instead.
On The Horizon
This information comes from a new company called SNDR which is about to launch a new app that combines all the ways you already communicate into a single platform. You can text, email, share files and use social media all from one app. More than just convenient, every message is encrypted and completely secure.