You can do everything possible to stay safe on the internet and still be at risk of identity theft. If you travel, you have to be extra careful about identity theft.
I often travel to visit my daughter who lives overseas. Her apartment has become like a second home to us. But it seems like every time I go, I get hacked and I have to replace my credit cards. As a result, I had to learn how to avoid identity theft while I travel.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop with credit card fraud. According to a recent article in the Investor’s Business Daily, people who use passports are especially at risk.
Since 2006, the government has issued passports with RFID chips embedded inside. These chips have lots of personal information about you, and it’s easy for scoundrels to pick this information up. This is to say nothing of getting your cell phone or laptop hacked when using Wi-Fi in an internet bar. These networks are not secure. So what is a smart traveler to do?
I don’t know what the smart travelers are doing, but I can tell you some of the steps I’m taking:
Disposable Credit Cards
First, I’ll take a disposable credit card with me next time I travel. I’m talking about the cards you load up with cash and can’t use beyond the amount you’ve added. While I never pay for charges that occur fraudulently on my credit cards, it’s a royal pain to have to get a new card and set my vendors up all over again.
Travel Tablet or Laptop
Next, I’ll keep traveling with my Netbook rather than my laptop. I never put data on the Netbook. It’s small, keeps a charge forever and can do anything the laptop can. If you travel often or have a job that keeps you overseas, invest in another laptop and keep it clean. Don’t load any data on it. This way, it’s safe for you to travel with. The article I read also suggests having a full-system encryption on any device (cell phone or laptop).
I never knew that phones needed anti-virus and anti-hacking software, but they do. As it happens, when I was having coffee with my buddy Eyal in Tel Aviv, I learned about it. Eyal works for a company that creates anti-virus and security software for cell phones, and we installed it right there between my first and second latte. Chances are high that you can download some pretty good software for free for your cell phone too. Just take a look at some of the options.
The author of the IBD article suggested a few other precautions:
1. Take the batteries out of your cell phone and laptop when you aren’t using them to prevent being tracked.
2. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to prevent hackers from taking over your data.
3. To prevent thieves from reading your credit card and passport with RFID cards, you can get a special wallet. It’s referred to as a “Faraday pouch.” Think of it as Kryptonite that even Superman couldn’t see through.
4. Don’t stay plugged into the internet if you aren’t using it.
5. Never let your credit cards, laptop or passport out of your sight.
6. Avoid public internet sites such as those available at cafes, airports and libraries.
The last suggestion is a bit tough. When I travel, I love to just sit in cafes and check e-mail and make calls to my office. I figure that since my Netbook doesn’t have any sensitive data on it, I’m safe to do that.
How do you keep yourself safe when you travel?
Peter W says
Unfortunately, credit card theft is inevitable these days and best to plan for it. I use two credit cards; one for all recurring payments and the other for my day-to-day charges. The credit card for recurring charges never leaves my home and is never used for anything else. The second card is in my wallet and used elsewhere and is the more likely theft candidate. If it is stolen and the needs to be replaced, I do not have to change all of my recurring payments.
Neal Frankle says
That is a fantastic idea! Nice thinking sir!
Joe Jamison says
You said “When I travel, I love to just sit in cafes and check email and make calls to my office. I figure that since my Netbook doesn’t have any sensitive data on it, I’m safe to do that.”
Actually, if you’re using wireless for your netbook connection, unless you are using some kind of encryption (such as a VPN) it is trivial for an attacker to eavesdrop on your session. Even if you aren’t doing anything particularly sensitive at that time, you risk exposing your login credentials that an attacker could use at a later date to access your email account.
Neal Frankle says
Thanks. I have learned that working wireless at “internet cafe’s” is a dangerous proposition. Thankfully, I haven’t learned this the hard way.
Although I frequently travel overseas I have never had a problem there. I did have a problem about 20 years ago with my American Express card at a hotel in New Jersey. I suspect someone at the hotel stole the number. Am Ex was top of it super fast. I have had more problems with fraud in the U.S.
Neal Frankle says
Good point! I figure it has a lot to do with what country you are in at the time.