It’s that time of year when everyone is preparing to take their summer vacations, and booking the hotel is high on the to-do list.
This is also the time of year when fraudulent incidents increase at hotel chains. According to a recent article by Ashley McAlpine, a Fraud Prevention Manager, fraudsters are focusing on hotels’ gifts shops, bars, and restaurants as their target hot spots. They often use malware – a malicious software that’s intended to damage or disable computers – to gain access to these systems.
However, the liability is not all on the hotels. Consumers unwittingly participate in the spread of malware by clicking on links in emails that are sent by fraudsters. These links may seem legitimate, but are gateways to retrieve your sensitive information such as passwords, account numbers, social security numbers, etc.
Here are some tips Ms. McAlpine recommends to stay safe this summer:
- Scrutinize bills for fraudulent charges. Reviewing credit card statements immediately upon receipt helps consumers identify fraudulent transactions right away.
- Use hotel WiFi cautiously. Hotel computer systems aren’t the only places vulnerable to malware and phishing attempts. Fraudsters may attempt to access consumers’ sensitive information by hacking into their systems through WiFi. Consumers should watch out for suspicious links and unfamiliar email senders.
- Practice safe behaviors at ATMs. Any ATM, regardless of its location, may be at risk of compromise. Consumers should select ATMs in safe, public areas or their hotel lobbies. They should also be on the lookout for suspicious stickers, decals and wires popping out that may indicate the presence of skimming devices.
- Keep cards in a secure location. Consumers should tuck their cards close to their bodies either in a front pocket, money belt or closed bag. It is also a good idea to keep at least one card in a separate location. This can mean splitting cards up among family members or tucking one card in a separate pocket or room safe.
- Consider sharing your plans with your credit union. Credit unions with a rough idea of their consumers’ travel itinerary can better differentiate legitimate transactions from those that aren’t. Consumers can also take advantage of controls and alerts their credit union may have set up to notify them of potential fraudulent transactions.
Using digital wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay are also great ways to pay for almost everything on vacation AND offer superior payment security. They use encryption technology that make point of sales transactions more secure than ones made by swiping physical cards through magnetic stripe card readers.
Remember, ALWAYS be highly suspicious of any messages (including telephone messages) that ask you to call or click on a link to provide personal, confidential, or account related information. To be on the safe side, contact your financial institution to verify the validity of the message.