En español | Anyone who uses the Internet — for email, banking, shopping or tweeting — is at risk for getting hacked, and the same applies to travelers. Here are some good practices for foiling the many crooks who would ruin your vacation by stealing your personal information.
Leave Your Laptop at Home
Will you really need your laptop in Athens? If the answer is yes, be sure that when you’re finished using your machine you don’t just close it. Log out of your accounts and turn it off. This assures that your email and bank account aren’t accessible to, say, a nosy hotel housekeeper. Also, ask at the hotel desk for access to a safe or strongbox for your electronic devices.
Create Strong Passwords
Your passwords are the key to keeping your private information safe. With just the password to your email account, a competent hacker can change the passwords to your social media accounts, Amazon.com account and online bank account.
So create hack-proof passwords, preferably ones you’ll remember without writing them down. Do you love a good apple pie? Rather than using “applepie” as a password, how about “bmaped!7DAW” (bake me a pie every day! 7 Days A Week). You get the idea. It’s best to make your password longer than eight characters, with upper and lowercase letters, special characters and numbers. Create a different password for every account. And never check the box that allows the computer to remember your password for you. If you do get hacked, change all your passwords right away.
Watch What You Click On
If you receive an email from a friend but the subject line seems off, don’t open it. Your friend may well have been hacked, and, if you open the email, you could be, too. Same with hyperlinks inside of emails, whether from a friend or cyber-stranger. If anything seems suspicious, don’t click. If the email is from a friend, contact him or her directly.
Use the Privacy Safeguards on Your Social Media Sites
Before traveling anywhere, review the privacy settings on your Facebook and Twitter accounts — in fact, do it right now. Make sure you’ve arranged to receive a text message or email whenever someone tries to change your password or log in to your account from an unauthorized computer. Then, if you receive such an alert, change your password immediately.
Watch Out For Card Readers
Beware of “skimmers,” thieves who use hacked readers to steal your credit card information. Hacked readers often are placed on ATMs or gas pumps. So, to be safe, and especially when traveling, reach for your cash as much as possible and limit your use of ATMs to those inside of banks.
You can also set up an independent travel account with a debit card to use on your trip. That way, while someone may steal your souvenir money, they won’t be able to access your retirement account.
Be in the Know, Wherever You Go
Contact the American consulate in the countries you visit. They’ll have up-to-date information on the scams that are popular in that area and how to best protect oneself against them.