When travelling, it’s easy to put aside any concerns you might have for safety and security. After all, you’re on vacation, right? What’s not soothing about swaying palm trees and ocean surf lapping against a sandy shore. But those are usually the times you’ll need to be most on guard.
Your hotel may not be the first place you think about when considering identity theft but there are some surprising ways that criminals can access personal information. Here are four surprising ways your privacy might be at risk:
Using Unsecured (Public) WIFI Hotspots in Hotels
You want to stay connected while on the go but at the same time, you know you should be wary of unsecured WIFI connections available in hotels. While it may be tempting for you just to take a quick peak at your email, unsecured WIFI networks offer hackers access to all kinds of confidential information that makes it easy for them to steal someone else’s identity.
Jennifer Praeger, Global VP of Business Development & Partnerships with Private Wifi, says that online security is all about prevention.
“If you’re going to be on the internet, be on public Wifi, there’s just precautions you have to take. It’s like if you’re going to drive, you put on a seatbelt.”
There are a few ways that you may be able to protect your privacy, one being a subscription to a virtual private network (VPN) service. It protects your data by using 128-bit encryption, making it tougher for hackers to sniff around your system.
Another option is to check that the firewall is properly configured on your device. A firewall is designed to control access to your network and keep it safe. A consumer may customize their firewall to allow screen-sharing but not file-sharing, for example.
Praeger also suggests disabling file-sharing. “Turn off your file-sharing when you’re on public Wifi. Once you connect to a public Wifi network, your folders and files can actually be accessed by other people in that network.”
Accessing Hotel ATM Cash Points
Many ATMs are located in hotel common areas, like lobbies or lounges, and may pose an additional security risk to consumers. Using a technique called skimming, criminals can use a device they install on an ATM to capture data from a bank card’s magnetic strip.
People with Chip-and-PIN debit/credit cards may find their cards more difficult to hack than those with magnetic strip cards. Call your bank if you’re interested in upgrading your card to a Chip-and-PIN option, it can go a long way to protect your privacy.
Many scammers also rely on hidden cameras to obtain bank card information and PIN numbers. Covering up the number pad while you’re punching in your PIN number can offer some extra protection against skimming. So high tech, I know.
Unscrupulous Individuals Impersonating Hotel Staff
Once you arrive at your hotel, you’ll interact with any number of hotel staff – from front desk staff, to maid service and managers – and it can sometimes be difficult to tell who is the genuine article.
Identity thieves can use all kinds of methods to gain access to sensitive information. Someone posing as a hotel staff member may call late at night claiming to have problems with your credit card and ask you to read them the number so they can verify your account.
Sidestep the problem and ask that all business be conducted at the front desk. This may avoid some of the risks inherent in giving sensitive information over the phone.
Hotel Point-of-Sale Systems Are Tempting Targets
Hotels can be an attractive target for hackers looking to access sensitive financial information. They process hundreds, if not thousands, of credit cards every day and while their systems may be protected, enterprising individuals work hard to find the chinks in their network security.
A suggestion for protecting your credit card information is to check your statements regularly and report any fraudulent activity, no matter how small. You can download a credit app to your Smartphone and get instant messages. I know I use alerts on both my credit cards to help me prevent fraud.