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How to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling

July 15, 2021 by Space Coast Credit Union



Traveling involves a lot of planning to have a memorable time with loved ones. The last thing you want is identity theft ruining your vacation. Unfortunately, travelers fall victim to identity theft because they’re often in vulnerable situations. A fraudster only needs a few moments to steal your information, yet the consequences can last for many years. Identity theft can take over your credit history, financial accounts, your reputation, and more. It’s a scary and stressful experience getting your life back from it.

Thieves use lots of sneaky tricks to get your information—in person and online. With our expansive reliance on technology, criminals continue to find digital opportunities to steal information from travelers. For example, a quick QR code scan with your cell phone could result in a thief harvesting your personal information. 

Rest assured, Space Coast Credit Union watches out for our members by implementing preventative measures and monitoring accounts for suspicious activity.


 

Steps to Take Before You Travel

Before traveling, ensure you have strong passwords for your phone and other devices that contain sensitive data. Check that you’ve paid all of your bills (or set them up with Bill Payer), so you don’t risk revealing that information while traveling. Plus, make two additional copies of sensitive documents, and store them in a safe location in case of an emergency. Additional steps to take: 
 
Notify SCCU of your travel destination: It’s important to notify us about your trip ahead of time to prevent declined transactions due to suspicious card usage from a new location. You can do this by calling us or going into your Online Banking account. If unauthorized activity does occur while traveling, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that fraudulent credit card purchases will be reimbursed thanks to Visa Zero Liability Protection14.

Ensure we have your current contact information: In Online Banking, double check that we have your current phone number and email, so we can contact you if we suspect any fraud. When we suspect fraudulent activity, we reach out to our members via phone, text, and email. As a courtesy, all SCCU Visa® debit and credit cards holders are automatically enrolled in 2Way Text Fraud Alerts, a FREE fraud prevention service that sends members a text in real-time upon detecting possible fraudulent activity; members can opt-out by texting “Stop” when they receive a fraud text alert from us.

Take control of your cards in the SCCU Mobile appIn the Card Controls companion app, you can prevent fraud by managing your Visa debit and credit cards. You can set location restrictions on your cards, manage merchant permissions, as well as turn your cards on and off whenever you want. Plus, you can even create spending limits to stay within your travel budget. 

Check the validity of websites for your bookings: Many scammers set up fake websites for rental cars, lodging, airplane tickets, and travel activities that take advantage of travelers. Here’s where you’ll need to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. Check that websites for your travel bookings are secure by looking for “https” in the URL (at the top of the website). The “s” stands for secure. Look for trusted badges on the website and cross-check accordingly. For example, if you notice a Better Business Bureau badge, see if you can find the company on BBB.org.

Be wary of “exciting” offers: You may come across alluring travel offers while you’re planning your trip. For example, you may see a “free trip” voucher or rock-bottom prices for a “limited time” on social media. Many of these offers require you to enter your personal information on third-party websites that have the intention of spamming your emails or worse, stealing your information.

Protect your mail from thieves: Even today, valuable information comes right to your doorstep. If your mailbox doesn’t come with a lock, you may want to ask a trusted friend or family member to pick up your mail for you. If it’s cost-effective for you, it may be worth looking into getting a doorbell camera to track porch pirates. Better yet, request a stop for all of your mail while you’re out of town. 

Safeguard sensitive information: Before you leave home, consider what essential documents you’ll need to bring with you. It’s best to leave your Social Security card, checkbook, extra credit cards, and other medical documents in a safe location at home. Make sure you’ve turned off computers and locked away sensitive documents, especially if you’ll have an unfamiliar sitter watching your pets or house. 


 

Steps to Take While Traveling

Ready to rock and roll? Just a moment there, hold your horses. You don’t want any precious information falling into the wrong hands! Don’t pack any sensitive information in your checked luggage and guard your boarding pass (or use a mobile ticket). Other precautions you should take while traveling: 
 
Protect your wallet and valuables: When you’re out exploring, be mindful of your personal space and surroundings, as pick-pocketing is one of the most traditional fraud tactics. Avoid placing your wallet and other valuables in a backpack or pants pocket. Instead, use a money belt/necklace underneath your clothing. Consider using one primary credit card for purchases and have a reasonable amount of cash with you for cash-only locations and stores. 

Verify before you release information: Scammers may call you on your hotel room phone and ask you for personal or credit card information. Always go to the front lobby to verify this request, as hotels never call room phones for such sensitive information. Likewise, be suspicious of cell phone calls that offer “free trips” or other rewards. For any travel-related transactions, stick to conducting them on a secured site or in person instead of over the phone. 

Be careful with public Wi-Fi: Unfortunately, fraudsters can hack into public Wi-Fi connections and “eavesdrop” on you. Avoid making transactions or logging into your accounts on your phone or on a public computer—use your phone’s data instead for these activities. Or, use a VPN that will encrypt your data. If you need to use a public computer, make sure you completely log out of accounts and clear your browsing history (including cached images/files and cookies).

Post with caution on social media: While you may feel the need to upload pictures of your trip on social media in real time, it makes it easier for fraudsters to track your movements. Plus, using public computers and public Wi-Fi paves the way for them to hack into your social media accounts. It’s best to wait until you get home to post pictures of your trip online.

Be wary of “juice jacking”: Juice jacking is when criminals steal your phone’s information using public USB charging ports (often in airports). These fraudulent ports infect your phone with malware and then your phone could send personal data and passwords to the scammer. It’s best to bring your own portable charging device (that’s already charged) to avoid watching your phone take its last breath of battery. 

Use ATMs with caution: Criminals like to install card readers on ATMs, which would steal your card number and PIN from just one swipe. Many fraudsters do this at ATMs at bars, restaurants, and gas stations. When typing your PIN, cover it with your hand to avoid people recording it with their phone’s camera. It’s best to use ATMs during the day in high-traffic areas. We offer a nationwide network of surcharge-free ATMs for you to use! 


 

Steps to Take After You Get Home

Your trip may be over, but you’re not home free yet. Just a couple more proactive steps can go a long way in preventing identity theft consequences: 
 
Review your items and accounts: Do a thorough once-over on all of your belongings from your bags to your backpacks before you head back, on the way home, and when you arrive. If you notice any cards are missing, contact SCCU immediately. Additionally, check all of your accounts and report any suspicious activity or transactions.

Change your passwords: If you’ve logged into any accounts with public Wi-Fi or on a public computer, it’s best to change your passwords at home to prevent remote break-ins.  


 

What to Do If You Suspect Identity Theft While Traveling

Notice something missing or “phishy”? Don’t panic. We’re here for you at SCCU. You can reach out to us by phone 24/7. If you find yourself in the following situations, here’s what to do:
 
How to report a lost/stolen debit or credit card: First, turn the card off in the Mobile Banking app’s Card Controls companion app to prevent additional transactions. Then, call SCCU’s Member Service Center immediately, or send a secured message via Online Banking. SCCU will block the card and advise you on the next steps. We can reissue you a new card during business hours. 

How to file a card dispute or fraud claim: You can contact SCCU during and after business hours at your local number. If necessary, the representative can verify any suspicious activity on your account and block your card. The fastest way to file a claim is through your Online Banking account. Log in, click on Contact Us, select Secured Forms, and choose the appropriate form. 
 
Click here to learn more about the travel-friendly benefits of a Visa Signature card!

 


 
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