The beach and mojitos are calling, but so are the too-good-to-be-true online deals, waiting for you to take the bait. Learn how to get protection to avoid a fraud burn.
The sun is shining, the destination views are incomparable, and there is nothing like a vacation to erase responsibilities. Just when you are relaxing, ordering that drink on your mobile phone, booking the rental car or the next destination, cybercriminals are posed to strike silently.
In fact, according to a McAfee report, one in five Americans (18%) has been scammed or nearly scammed when booking a vacation online; 30% of travel-related scam victims reported financial losses of $1,000 to $3,000 and a third (31%) of vacation scam victims were defrauded after spotting a deal that was too good to be true. The most popular destinations are also the most infested with cybercriminals who see a throng of vulnerable victims. Mexico is one destination that tops the list for fraudsters.
Getting recommendations from friends and family for where to stay is always good practice so you know what to expect. Similarly, checking online reviews helps assess a hotel, Airbnb or other lodging, and sticking to trusted travel sites is also a good practice. However, nothing is foolproof and while vacationers are learning to steer clear of cheap the aggregator with too-good-to-be-true deals, they should also think of getting buyers’ insurance that provides some coverage if there is a problem. For example, if you book a rental car but the company mysteriously disappears, the insurance can help soften the blow.
While traveling, make sure you have cards that will work where you are. In terms of risk, remember there are differences between debit and credit cards. Some debit cards may not reimburse you in the case of fraud, where most credit cards will. Also, debit cards are associated with a bank account so if cybercriminals steal that information, there is a chance they can access and drain your bank account. Whereas credit cards are not tied to a bank account and can be shut down immediately if stolen. Keeping some level of a backup plan is always advisable; know who to call if you suspect fraud in your account, or carry an extra credit card in case your main one is compromised.
Like shark-infested waters, vacationers need to be extra careful online while on vacation. The hotel Wi-Fi is not necessarily foolproof just because it has a password. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) services is the preferred method for connecting to the Internet. Many global providers offer those services like IPVanish, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, TunnelBear, or TorGuard to name a few.
Some other tips to avoid holiday fraud:
1. When using mobile phones, URLs are harder to verify and it is tougher to spot a fake online site from a legitimate one. Look again in case your eyes are blurred by sunscreen to verify the URL; Amaz0n.com is not the same as amazon.com.
2. While you want to save some bucks, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t take the bait!
3. Inform the credit card companies about your vacation plans and destinations, but also review your online credit card account regularly for potential unrecognized transactions.
Enjoying new experiences is what makes life great. But stay safe, whether you are swimming, hiking, parasailing or renting a campervan online.
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