There are many risks that travelers face when packing up and jetting off. The nature of the pursuit leaves people unprotected and very vulnerable. Over the years, the type of crime that travelers are a risk of falling victim to has changed. Now, more than ever before, identity theft is on the rise, and many unwittingly adventurers are finding their journeys cut short due to an unsuspected attack.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the hiking boots and backpack for good! Although the risk is there, it should never stop you from doing what you love and getting out to see the world. By taking a few simple steps to help understand the threats and do what you can to minimize them, travelers can protect themselves and continue their journey without having to constantly worry about the chance of disaster.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft comes in many different forms, but they’re usually the means to a similar end. When criminals intercept your details, they do so in order to use that information for their own monetary gain. In the simplest form, they could merely aim to collect enough information to be able to access your bank account and drain the money from it; however, more complex variations on the scheme include fraudulently applying for loans or credit using another person’s identity and then leaving the victim to deal with the fall out.
Although most good banks and organizations will resolve with the situation accordingly and make sure you’re not out of pocket, the immediate repercussions when on the road and traveling could be disastrous. You could easily face your funds being frozen, bank accounts locked and even police enquiries, so avoiding the situation at all cost is a necessary practice.
Physical theft is a common and, unfortunately, likely problem that all travelers are potential victims to. Due to the fact they carry so many personal and sensitive documents around with them, tourists regularly become targets for pickpockets and thieves. Similarly, the lack of secure storage when backpacking and staying in hostels leaves valuables at significant risk.
Fortunately, this is a problem that has been acknowledged by many, and steps have been taken to reduce the threat. Many hostels offer lockable safes to all their customers, and many money belts are designed to keep your cash and documents safe and close to your body while traveling around. However, it’s still important to be aware and stringent with these practices. Avoid leaving your bag lying around unattended when on the road, and make sure you hide valuables in hidden pockets so no sticky fingers can reach in and grab them.
Public WiFi Networks
Identity theft is not just a problem in terms of physical crime; one of the most vulnerable points for travelers’ information to be stolen is when connecting to the internet. This is because, often, people on the road have to rely on public WiFi networks to be able to connect. These networks are notoriously unsecure as they leave your data flying around unprotected and completely visible to prying eyes. As you input passwords and credit card details into websites, then malicious hackers can intercept and gather that information before using it for their own benefit.
Unfortunately, public WiFi is a necessary evil for life as a traveler; however, there are a few simple steps you can take to avoid becoming victim to online identity theft. First, try to ensure you only use dependable WiFi spots. There are many rogue hotspots set up specifically for data collection, so sticking to named and trusted brands—such as Starbucks and McDonalds—or using traceable sources—such as your hostel WiFi—ensures that you won’t stumble into one of these digital traps. To protect yourself further, it’s worth installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This handy piece of software acts as a middleman and encrypts your data before you access the public network. This means you can input information without worrying about onlookers and can surf the internet safely and securely.
Credit Card Interceptions
Unsurprisingly, credit card information is some of the most sensitive, and most coveted, data out there. This is because, although other information allows criminals to commit fraud, having direct access to someone’s bank account is a much quicker and straightforward payout. There are numerous techniques all over the world that criminals use to try to intercept card details, so any traveler could be exposed to many scams and tricks during their journey.
Some simple steps to take to improve your security include being stringent with cash point usage. ATM’s are a hotspot for credit card fraud. Criminals tamper with the machines to prevent cards coming back out, and watch over your shoulder as you repeatedly input you pin number, or even use heat-sensing technology to pick up which buttons you pressed. To avoid this, aim to use trusted cash points that have long queues and report any thing suspicious immediately. Also ensure you always cover your pin and even press a few extra buttons for good measure to avoid heat tracking! If you are worried about a certain transaction, make sure you ring your bank as soon as you can, as reporting it early can make a big difference in ensuring a refund.
While worrying about the risks should never be enough to prevent you from traveling, it is always worth being cautious! These few steps are a great place to start to optimize your security and stay safe on the road. If you have any more tips that you feel should be added to this list, then be sure to leave a comment below.