Credit cards can provide a great convenience when you are traveling, but they can also be a dark cloud if you aren’t careful to avoid credit card fraud. Making a few arrangements before your trip, and being alert while traveling, will help reduce travel risks and let you focus on the rest and relaxation you’re looking forward to.
- Credit card fraud gives new meaning to “traveling light.” Not your bags – but your wallet. Take a limited number of credit cards, in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Make sure you have the phone numbers for your bank and/or credit card issuer stored separately in case you need to contact them for assistance or to report a lost or stolen card.
- Before you leave, contact your bank or credit card issuer to let them know when and where you will be traveling. Some card issuers will freeze cards if they detect out-of-the-ordinary activity that could indicate potential fraud. Making them aware of your travel plans could prevent this scenario.
- Be protective of your card information. Before providing credit card information by phone to personnel (hotel staff, tour company, etc.), be sure the call is legitimate. Any thief could call your hotel room pretending to need your information. If you aren’t certain, the best practice is to hang up and contact personnel directly. That way, you know the call is authentic.
- Use bank-only ATMs. Free standing ATMs, like those in hotel lobbies and outside restaurants, pose added risk. When using an ATM, don’t be afraid to tug on the card reader or keypads before using to check for skimming devices that can capture your credit card (or debit card) information. Also, cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN to help stop thieves/scammers.
- Sign up for online account access, so you can monitor your credit card activity for any possible fraudulent charges.
- If you leave credit cards in a hotel room, make sure they are locked in the room safe or other secure location. In fact, this is true of all documents with personal information, such as your driver’s license, medical insurance cards, passports and checkbooks. These are all items used to commit credit card fraud and identity theft, so make sure they are secure at all times.
If in the worst case scenario your credit cards are lost or stolen, immediately use the phone numbers you’ve stored to seek assistance, which could range from changing passwords and PIN numbers to canceling the cards.
It’s unfortunate that credit card fraud and identity theft exist. However, as thieves and scammers become more clever in their schemes, so do banks and credit card companies in their methods to protect their customers’ money and identity.
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