Cybercrime is clear and present danger and getting more so each year. A record high $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion. This increase was driven by growth in existing card-not-present fraud transactions, such as online shopping.
Apple Federal Credit Union compiled this short list to help consumers avoid problems on the road or overseas.
1 Alert Your Credit Union or Bank About Your Travel. Providing a travel notification to the financial institution(s) that holds your credit and debit cards lets them know where you will be and for how long. This allows you to use these cards, including at ATMs, outside of your usual geographical location without setting off alarms and having your cards frozen.
2 Download Your Credit Union’s or Bank’s Mobile App. After you notify your institution about your travel, downloading their mobile app allows you to bank online or contact the financial institution should you need to. Check with your institution before traveling to make sure your destination country is not blocked on their firewall; many foreign countries have online risks associated with them. If your destination is blocked, your bank or credit union can help you plan accordingly.
3 Do Not Use Public Wi-Fi. Bad guys monitor public Wi-Fi hotspots in places people often use their cell phones for shopping, such as coffee shops, hotel lobbies, etc. DON’T DO IT! The exception is if you are using a secure one-time passcode, such as you get when you check into some hotels, which includes your name. You can also use your cellular connection on your phone. If you must use public Wi-Fi, do not log into any of your financial institutions’ mobile banking websites, or use your debit or credit cards for online purchases.
4 Do Not Post on Social Media That You Are Going Away. Posting your travel plans to share with friends on Facebook or tweeting your excitement as you board the cruise line is telling the bad guys you are away. Instead, wait until you return to share information about your trip.
5 Use Card Valet to Turn Your Debit Card “On or Off.” Card Valet is an app that allows you to set parameters on your debit card and turn it on or off instantly. It’s as simple as registering your debit card (if your financial institution offers it) and then setting parameters for purchases. You can set instant alerts for purchases based on preset spending limits and purchase location. Plus, you can receive an instant alert if a purchase has been denied.
6 Consider Using Gift Cards When You Travel Instead of Taking Your Debit or Credit Cards. Invest in gift cards for your travel, which you can pre-load before you go. These are not tied to your bank accounts so it limits your exposure. Just make sure that vendors at your destination accept the brand of gift cards (AmEx, MasterCard, etc.) you’ll be carrying.
7 File Your Travel Itinerary with the State Department. When traveling internationally, always file your itinerary with the U.S. State Department via their website, www.state.gov. They can provide invaluable assistance while you’re abroad.