Security precautions for business or leisure travel

David Pollino
Posted by David Pollino

I traveled recently to a security conference in Southern California, and I spent some time on this trip thinking about security on the road. Here are a few tips and things to consider to help protect yourself when you’re traveling:

Young Asian business woman in a hotel room, checking her smartphone.Wi-Fi in hotels & airports: Public Wi-Fi spots are awesome. They make our lives so much easier. They also carry added risks. Information you send over a public network, such as those at airports, coffee shops, or hotels, may be accessible to hackers. My advice is to assume any public Wi-Fi network is not secure, and take steps to help protect yourself and your data:

  1. Send information only to sites that are fully encrypted.
  2. Don’t use mobile apps that require personal or financial information.
  3. Don’t stay signed in to accounts.
  4. Keep your browser and security software up to date, and pay attention to your browser’s alerts that can (1) warn you of malicious downloads and fraudulent websites and (2) provide certificate error warnings when something may be awry with a website.
  5. Take control of your Wi-Fi connectivity by modifying the settings on your mobile device so it won’t automatically connect to available Wi-Fi networks.
Hotel phones: A couple months ago my family went to a Southern California theme park and stayed at a hotel, where I saw a “Phone Security Tips” warning in my room. The card urged caution about revealing personal information over the phone, including credit card numbers.

Hotel phone systems have become a target of fraudsters, so be on guard. Be suspicious of unexpected phone calls. If a caller claims to be from the hotel, offer to call them back or go to the front desk to talk in person. Don’t give out personal information on the phone.

Hotel safes: Use the safe that many hotels provide in rooms. If you’re going out, lock valuables and electronic devices in that safe, or hide them. It’s easy to want to just leave everything spread across the beds, but take a minute to secure your belongings before you step out for dinner or to go to the pool. If your room does not have a safe or you do not believe it to be secure, hide your valuables, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign and leave the TV on in the room.

Credit cards: Lost or stolen credit cards, especially while on the road, can be a nightmare. Store your credit card’s customer service number in your mobile phone so you have the phone number handy to report a lost or stolen card. If you’re traveling internationally, consider keeping your passport number and phone numbers to U.S. embassies and consulates on your phone, also.

Some identity theft monitoring services provide assistance with lost or stolen credit cards. If you have a monitoring service — as many of us do these days — see if they offer to contact your credit card issuers in the event of theft or loss.

Road trip: Be sure to keep luggage and other travel items out of site when stopping for food, fuel, or at hotels when traveling. Criminals are known to break into cars to steal luggage.

Travel can be a lot of fun. But it opens you up to a number of unique threats that can turn a business trip or vacation into a catastrophe. By considering a few easy steps, you can help protect yourself from fraud and identity theft, and help ensure your travels are safe and pleasant.

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