Spring Break Fraud

[ 0 ] March 18, 2015 |

Spring Break Hotspots for Fraud, ID Theft

When you’re having a blast on a spring break trip, the threat of identity theft or fraud is probably not the first thing on your mind. But when you’re in an unfamiliar place, and especially if you’re not paying close attention to your surroundings, you may put yourself at risk. Here are some destinations you may want to avoid because of high instances of fraud and identity theft.

Spring Break

Riskiest destinations for fraud

By some estimates, Mexico has the world’s highest rate of card fraud, topping even the United States, so spring breakers heading to Cancun, Cozumel or other Mexican hotspots should be aware of the risks.

India, the United Arab Emirates, China and the U.K. also have high rates of card fraud. Some financial institutions consider certain countries so risky that they block transactions that occur there.

If you’re staying in the U.S., Florida has the highest rates of fraud, according to Federal Trade Commission statistics, so be wary if you’re planning a trip to an Orlando theme park or a Sunshine State beach. The next two worst states for fraud are Nevada and Georgia. When it comes to identity theft rates, Florida is also at the top of the list, followed by Georgia and California.

 

How to avoid ID theft when traveling

Before you leave, put a hold on your mail or ask someone to collect it for you so no one can steal it and apply for credit card offers in your name or access confidential information. You should also notify financial services providers of your travel plans. This not only ensures that they won’t mistakenly put a hold on your account for transactions in unusual places, but it also alerts them to keep a closer eye on your accounts for signs of fraud.

When traveling abroad, one of the safest ways to pay is with a credit card, since consumers typically have zero liability for any fraudulent purchases. A debit card doesn’t have as much protection, and if a thief gets hold of it, that person can start draining your account immediately.

Using cash is another way to guard your identity and accounts, since you don’t risk card numbers being stolen. If you do use an ATM to withdraw cash, be very aware of your surroundings and avoid machines that are unbranded or otherwise look suspicious. Skimming account data and recording personal identification numbers with phony card readers is a prime method of hacking into victims’ finances.

Also, avoid carrying a Social Security card when traveling, and always lock your passport, credit cards and any other sensitive documents in a hotel safe when not needed. Additionally, be wary of using public computers or Wi-Fi networks; unsecured connections may allow hackers to record your keystrokes as you type passwords for sensitive things like email, work or financial services.

By avoiding risky places and taking steps to guard your information, you can focus on enjoying spring break rather than becoming a victim of cybercrooks.

Emily Starbuck Crone, NerdWallet

 

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