7 Ways to Prevent  Fraud and Hacking While Traveling the Globe

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

Protecting Your Information On the Road

I’m freshly pissed off and frustrated writing this post since I’ve just been the victim of credit card theft and a hacker getting into my hosting account and taking my website down. Add to that the feeling that anything that could go wrong over the past few days, has, and it’s so much to deal with at once that I can only laugh. So, I decided to channel my rage into a blog post! 😉 Here are some tips to help you travel the globe and keep your information safe, and some tips on what to do if it gets compromised.

Protecting yourself is key.

How to Be Prepared for Fraud

1. Have Two of Everything With You

Always carry backup. Have 2 credit cards, at a minimum, and 2 bank accounts. Separate all your cards into 2 entirely different wallets and pack them in 2 different bags. This way, if one set gets stolen or compromised, you still have a second set to use while awaiting replacement cards. Having separate bank accounts with your money divided up also helps – obviously find banks with no or low minimum balance requirements and low international fees. TD Bank is one such example. This way if someone gets your 4-digit code, you at least can cancel the card and know you are still able to get cash without ridiculous fees on your credit card.

2. Invest in a VPN For Your Computer and Your Cell Phone and Use It

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. It’s basically software that you activate / turn on when using Wifi in order to block hackers from seeing what you are doing and typing. This is an absolute must if you plan to do any online banking or credit card transactions. Most of the Wifi you will use while traveling is public. You don’t want to do your banking wthout protection. I use Cyberghost, but there are others that are good as well. (Note, if you click that link and purchase Cyberghost, we will both get a free month.) The one downside of a VPN is that it will dramatically slow down your internet connection. In some cases, it can become so slow that you will be unable to access certain pages or process large image downloads, as an example. I suggest you turn it on for critical activities involving credit card transactions and turn it off when, say, you are writing a blog post.

3. If You Have an iPhone, Put Your Cards in Apple Wallet

I almost never use my iPhone to pay for anything, but, there is a fantastic benefit to adding your cards to Apple Wallet. The moment a charge is made on the cards there, you should get a notification on your phone. That’s how I caught on to the recent fraud on my card, and cut it off before they could get away with more than 2 charges. I had live information.

4. Buy Skype Credit

You’ll notice I didn’t tell you to save all the phone numbers you will need should you be the victim of fraud. You can, but, in the moment, you’re probably going to head straight to the internet for the most updated information. So, depending on how you best access information, either save it before you go, or remember you can find it on Google. But, you will want some Skype credit to be able to make all the international calls you will need to. If you buy local SIM cards, you might still have to pay for international 800 numbers. With Skype, it’s free. If you purchase credits before you go, that’s one less thing to worry about.

5. Consolidate Your Email and Change Your Passwords

The very second you start getting a torrent of SPAM emails or any suspicious activity on your email account, change the password. This means you need to pay attention to your email accounts. I have several email accounts, like most of us, and have visibility of all of them, together, on my iPhone email app. This way if I see anything suspicious, I can figure out which email account is at risk, and update the password. Now, this means, of course, you will need another app to store your passwords as you will likely update them regularly. It can get really annoying when you have multiple things you log in to and have to update passwords to prevent hacking, so, trust me, you’ll want to write those new passwords down the moment you change them, in a place you can easily find them.

6. Never Let Someone Walk Off With Your Card

In America, it’s actually very common for a waiter to take your card to the register, run it, return it, then leave it open to add tip. Hmmm. Don’t do this outside of America. If the register is in the back of the restaraunt, ask the waiter to bring over a card machine, or walk to the card machine and watch them run it. You don’t want anyone having alone time with your credit cards, apart from you.

Annoying Facts You May Learn

Corporations Have Policies That Will Drive You Even More Nuts!

In my currently two weeks of battling with my credit card company for a replacement card, I found out there is no way to email any of the reps you speak to. This means, when giving a long, complicated, international address to mail a replacement card to, you will spend 10-minutes, spelling out the information one letter at a time, and the likely typos will cost you time. The reps also usually cannot call an international number, so if you have an international SIM rather than an expensive international roaming plan with your US number, trust me, you wil be pretty frustrated! This is why you’ll want that Skype credit.

Other companies block usage of their websites and apps in certain countries. For another of my accounts, I found out that I can’t log in to my account from South Africa! This means I can’t even monitor fraud, and late payment fees can be assessed. Tip #7 – Before you leave your country, inform yourself with each card of what countries you might have this issue in, and figure out whether signing up for auto-pay is likely to help or hurt you.

What To Do if Fraud Happens to You

Breathe, Consider a Stiff Drink, Then Make a Game Plan.

Fraud and hacking suck. After two weeks of dealing with a simultaneous hacking and credit card fraud issue, I feel like I’m in a whirlwind of shit. In fact, so many things are piling up that I’ve decided laughter is the only option. I’m on top of everything, I’m angry, but I’m also laughing. Here’s the thing, you have to accept that the fraud happened. You can’t change it. Lamenting over it won’t help you. Sometimes, raising your voice when you get miserable customer service helps, though you may have to prepare to apologize for being so angry to the reps you speak with. I just hung up from one such call, raised my voice, and told the rep, “This is not directed at you, this is directed at your leadership that really needs to pull themselves together and change their processes. Since we’re on a recorded line, I really hope one of them listens in and calls me so I can help them improve the company.” Yup, I really said it.

Find a Silver Lining

For me, time is our most precious resource. My credit card company has handled my case so poorly that after 2 weeks and hours of calls, I still don’t have a replacement card. Not ok, so I asked for compensation. So far, I’ve earned a partial refund towards an annual fee, and several thousand bonus air miles. So, my silver lining is that because of hackers and fraudsters, I can afford to pay for another flight to another country. Figure out your silver lining and don’t be shy about making requests if the level of customer service you receive stinks. It’s also good to focus on the fact that everything will, eventually, work out. The short-term sucks, but there is always a workaround. Ask for help if you need it.

On a positive note, this is the first time my credit card has been compromised in over a year-and-a-half of travel. These strategies really do work!

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