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How to stop credit card fraud while traveling

While traveling domestically or abroad, the last thing you want (or need) is for your credit or debit card information to be stolen. This can put an immediate and unexpected halt on your spending ability and can quickly become a stressful situation.

While traveling domestically or abroad, the last thing you want (or need) is for your credit or debit card information to be stolen. This can put an immediate and unexpected halt on your spending ability and can quickly become a stressful situation. Despite security measures implemented by banks and credit issuers, identity thieves are always devising new schemes to get your information. While it might be unlikely that you will become a fraud victim, taking the following precautions can reduce any potential risk.

Create Alerts and a Travel Notice

This is the easiest step.  If you haven’t done so already, sign-up for e-mail or text message alerts for your credit card.  When your bank thinks a fraudulent purchase (i.e. a $2,000 purchase instead of your routine $50 purchase) has been charged to your card, you will receive a message asking to verify the legitimacy of the purchase. Most travel credit cards come with these tech-enabled security benefits .  If you will be traveling, you should also notify the bank what states or countries you will be passing through.  In fact, international travelers need to notify the bank before leaving so your card will work when you get off the plane.      

When traveling, it is also a good idea to have the domestic or overseas number to call your credit card company if your card gets stolen or compromised.  Keep it separate from your wallet, in case it gets stolen, so you have the phone number and card information to freeze the card as soon as possible.

Avoid Public or Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks

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You might not have a personal hotspot while traveling and your only internet access might be at a coffee shop or hotel to check your bank account or purchase the next segment of your trip.  Identity thieves love these places as they can “blend in” with the crowd and look like another customer.  Under this guise, they are able to intercept your data and with enough time can figure out your usernames, passwords, or payment information.  

If you need to enter personal information on a website, make sure the URL address begins with https:// instead of the typical http://.  This means the site is encrypted and harder to be hacked.  Most banks & purchase platforms have an https:// address.  The extension, HTTPS Everywhere , can be installed on any Firefox, Chrome, or Opera device and creates a secure connection with most websites.  For additional security, you can also login to a VPN service that will also encrypt public or personal hotspots .

Erase History & Cookies from Public Computers

If for some reason you cannot use your personal laptop or tablet, and need to use a public computer in a lobby or café, try to browse in a private web session.  This would be the “Incognito” function in Google Chrome (or similar function in other browsers) that will not store the browsing or search history or download cookies.  If you cannot use a private session, be sure to manually erase the browsing history & cookies before leaving the computer.  These two options will eliminate the possibility that the computer will remember your username or password for any sites when a future visitor visits the same site.

Never Let the Card Leave Your Sight

This same advice also applies when you dine at a restaurant at home too. Do everything possible to keep your credit card in sight and in your possession at all times. It's possible for a cashier or waiter to copy your card number or swipe the magnetic strip through a small device without anybody looking. Most people are honest so this shouldn't be a large fear, but you should always trust your instincts if you do not feel comfortable handing your card to a complete stranger.

Use an RFID-Blocking Wallet

With magnetic strip cards, thieves obtain sensitive information by placing a thin, plastic “skimmer” over the card reader that wirelessly transmits the information to their computer nearby.  With EMV-embedded chip cards, thieves no longer have to wait for you to make a purchase to steal data.  By getting within several feet of somebody and standing in the same place for several seconds or brushing against them, pickpockets use an electronic device that fits into a pants pocket that can wirelessly download information from a chip-embedded credit card or passport.  An RFID-blocking wallet or passport case looks like a regular wallet but has technology that prevents these hidden scanners from stealing any information.

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Remain Vigilant

Once you return home, there is still the possibility that fraud can occur. Following the above practices, at home or away, will make it harder for electronic pickpockets to steal your information. There is no need to worry about credit card fraud as issuers and banks have made great strides in preventing theft, but, it still happens every day. By routinely monitoring your charges and trusting your instincts, you will be able to stop fraud before it's too late.

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