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  • By: Jacqueline Goralczyk

Be Aware of Vacation Scams

While vacationing is a time to be in total bliss - basking in the sun and leaving your busy home and work life behind - it is important to remain conscious of the reality that scammers will continue to scam. Whether you are at home or on vacation, it is important to remain diligent in protecting yourself.

Despite the fact that you are physically away from the threats, it doesn’t mean they limit their occurrence. In fact, being on vacation stirs up much more than you could imagine. While distracted by enjoying the vacation you deserve, neglect for personal items such as a cell phone, wallet, credit card occurs twice as much as it would if you were back in your home routine. Whether it is misplacing your tablet or laptop on a bus traveling to your destination or leaving your other personal devices under the airplane seat in front of you, it unfortunately happens to most. Leaving your device(s) clearly increases your security risks, hence it is important to follow crucial steps before, during and after your vacation.

Before and During Vacation:

Backing Up, Updating, & Encrypting:
  • Most cyber tips will commonly suggest backing up and updating your data periodically, although some devices automatically do so. It is important to remember to do this before you leave for your vacation.

  • Cross check your data settings and double check to make sure your sensitive data is encrypted. If you are unsure how to do so, feel free to strike up a conversation with a close friend (or more commonly your children) for assistance. Most companies now, whether it is your laptop, tablet, or phone, have accessible instructions online.

  • If you haven’t already, it is important to enable two-step log in on all your devices. If your financial institutions do not use two-step log in yet, create a new password before your vacation.

  • If you are leaving any devices in a hotel room, put them somewhere safe, such as a room lock box or hidden (if there is no lock box). When in doubt, take them with you.

Cell Phone:
  • Keep your passcode and 2FA enabled and make sure all your important data is saved externally. For someone who is not familiar with this, 2FA is a two-factor authentication using a combination of two components: a pin/passcode and number (usually texted to your phone) which verifies your identity. Do not leave your cell phone unattended. This is common in an airport where many people leave their devices plugged in to the charging port.

Social Media:
  • Refrain from posting any pictures during your vacation. Home theft rises when the thief knows you are away on your vacation.

  • Refrain from using “check in” features on social media apps. Alerting the thief of your location is not ideal while you are on vacation.

Public Wi-Fi:
  • It is generally advisable to not connect to any public Wi-Fi. However, if you are in a crunch where you do not have acceptable cell service, be extremely cautious of your sensitive data.

  • Do not access sensitive data such as financial data over public Wi-Fi and be very weary of entering personal credentials. An additional option is to utilize the hotspot on your mobile device (please review your cell phone settings and/or review with your cell phone provider if you need assistance before your vacation). If you are traveling a larger distance, explore your options of roaming charges before you leave for your vacation.

  • Lastly, double check your automatic connection to Wi-Fi. If you do have this set to auto connect, you should remove it and never select common names remembered on the Wi-Fi network. This also goes for basic online searching. Take your time and observe the browser address for misspellings.

Credit Card:
  • One of the commonly forgotten “to do’s” before vacation is to notify your bank. It is important to let them know where and when you will be traveling, which will reduce the number of flags and also alert them to keep an eye out for local or unknown charges.

  • Be wary of using ATMS. Evidently, it is optimal to have cash in hand during vacation, but many scammers steal pin numbers using very popular schemes such as magnetic strips, cameras and other small devices. At any point during your trip, try to locate an ATM that is inside behind secured doors rather than outside. ATMS inside have a much lower risk of getting hijacked than outside ATMS. Keep your receipts as this may help in checking transactions.

  • If cash isn’t necessarily needed, it is advisable to use a credit card as they are better protected and easier to remedy if they have been compromised.

Returning From Vacation:

As much as it is a day job before and during your vacation to remain secure, it is just as important to do so when returning from your vacation.

  • Do not copy any sensitive data to your computer that was retrieved while on vacation until you have scanned it. If you need help doing so, please seek assistance from a trusted IT professional.

  • Cross check your financial statements for any unknown charges, regardless of size.

By: Kaleigh J. Sporko, Cybersecurity Analyst at DeAngelus Goralczyk, PLLC

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