After hearing a fellow traveler talk about how her credit card was hacked and had $200 stolen, Jill decided to sign into our checking account to see what was new.
It was then that she noticed that in three separate transactions over the last week, we had been stripped of nearly $6,000. Turns out that somebody in Colombo, Sri Lanka had gotten ahold of my card information and PIN, and used that info to make a few handy withdrawals.
We thought we had been pretty careful when setting out on our round the world trip, but apparently it wasn’t enough and more security is needed.
So here is what we did to prepare for our round the world trip, and what we could do better. Hopefully this will help you stay safe, and keep your money out of the hands of criminals.
1. The Silo. Like anybody these days, convenience is a huge thing. So I’m betting that you have a checking account with a banking card for everyday transactions and cash withdrawals. For ease, this account is probably tied to your savings account so that you can transfer funds when you have a large expense. You need to disconnect these accounts and keep them separate. Separate login, maybe even separate bank. I know it sounds like a pain, but once access is gained to your checking account, it’s a hop skip and a jump to your savings account.
2. Passwords & Pins. It goes without saying and you’ve heard it 1,000 times before. Change your passwords. Don’t make them simple. Use a phrase that you will remember. Use symbols and number in place of certain letters. Set a calendar reminder to change them every 90 days.
3. Email Alerts. Most banks allow you to set up email alerts for many account events like withdrawals over $500 for example, or international charges. Just make sure you don’t ignore the emails.
4. RFID. Anything with a chip (like a credit card or your passport) contains data that can be read with radio frequency, or RF. Crafty criminals are now using scanners to detect these on your person and to pick your pocket electronically. We were standing in a travel store the day before we left the US and were looking at wallets and bags that were lined with material that blocks them from skimming your information.
5. Banks. Only use ATM’s at a bank. This may sound insane, some cash machines are rigged to transmit your card information and pin directly to the criminal, who then uses it at their leisure while you move about your day. In other cases, cameras are set up to read the card as you insert it and to record your hand movement to determine your pin number. So if you are in a bank, the machine is less likely to be tampered with and you won’t likely be on the street.=
In short, there is only so much you can do to help prevent theft. We thought we were being careful and doing the right things, but still got hit.
So tell us – what precautions do you take to protect yourself against theft while travelling?