You don’t want those memories to include the time you were scammed. Unfortunately, there may be unscrupulous people who will try to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers.
It’s not just pickpockets anymore. The crooks have gone high tech, and you need to know how to protect yourself. Here are some tips that Chris and I learned from our years of traveling:
- Don’t use open Wi-Fi in a hotel, café, or on board ship – especially for banking and other private information that hackers can easily see since you have already let them through the first security wall.
- In Europe, all credit cards come with built in chips that offer more security than the magnetic strips commonly used on American cards. American Express will now issue you a chip card for free (if you ask for it). Some Visa and MasterCards are also moving to chips.
- Set up you credit cards and bank accounts for email updates on account activity. Watch out for charges and debits that you don’t recognize so you can catch fraudulent activity – and nip it in the bud.
- Believe it or not, crooks are using RFID readers that enable them to “grab” your credit card information (even newer passport info) just by standing next to you! I carry an RFID-protected wallet and shoulder bag that blocks these readers. They’re available on Magellan’s and Travel Smith, and your bank should also have credit card size envelopes that will protect your card.
- ATMs for cash are everywhere these days – even in grocery stores. I personally won’t use an ATM unless it’s in a bank, because crooks can attach readers to ATMs that don’t look any different to the naked eye. In Cape Town, South Africa, we tried to use an ATM that wouldn’t accept our card. Right away, a woman was there who wanted Chris to hand her our card because “she wanted to help.” We got very suspicious, started yelling and a guard called the police. The woman jumped in a car, and the bad guys even drove through a barricade to get out of there quickly.
- In the airport, get down to baggage claim as soon as possible so you’re there when your bags hit the turnstile. People have been arrested for grabbing unattended luggage and leaving the airport.
- Don’t put valuables in your checked luggage. Baggage handlers are notorious for stealing anything of value from luggage.
- Put valuables in your carry on – BUT – the overheads may get full and the attendants may want you to check your carry on. Don’t bring your best jewelry with you and be ready to open your carry on to quickly remove valuables like a jewelry pouch and laptop. I also keep a small luggage lock in my carry on pocket to lock the bag if it has to be checked.
- Don’t allow someone to separate you from your valuables. Last year, we went to an upscale Caribbean resort with other travel agents. As soon as we checked in, the management wanted us to tour the resort. They told us to leave all our luggage and they would take it to our rooms. Only a few of us demanded that the manager lock our bags in his office. Sure enough, the luggage of one of the agents was delivered to the wrong room – that guest claimed he never saw it. Management actually waited for him to leave his room, and found the missing bag under his bed.
- Know where you’re going. Every city in the world has its “shady” areas and you don’t want to go wandering into a bad situation. The Frommer and Fodor guide books are great sources of information on where to walk, and your hotel can also update you on safest areas.
Follow these tips, use common sense and keep your “travel radar” on. Like a deal that seems too good to be true, if a situation seems to feel strange, go with your instincts.
Keep safe, and happy traveling! For questions or help with your travel planning call us at (631) 893-4232 or email Sheila or Chris at email@example.com
CHRIS & SHEILA KORTE, ACC
Winners of Best of Long Island Travel Agency 2014
Toll Free: (631) 893-4232 ~ 866-81-KORTE (56783)
Babylon, NY 11702