Here is some news for you. Seventeen percent of African-Americans take one or more international trips a year. Consider that we spend $48 billion on travel in the United States alone. But black people need to be alert and don’t forget cyber security even on vacation. Taking the time to focus on your cyber security can mean enjoying your days on the beach or trying to get home with maxed out credit cards and empty bank accounts. Hackers and identity thieves do what they do for one reason, money. So before, during and after that fabulous vacation you need to make sure you are aware and alert to the scams.
Right off the bat you need to be aware that a scam is always out there waiting for you. They begin even before you leave home. For example. We are all looking for the best price on everything. That includes airline tickets. One of the hottest scams running right now is the airline voucher scam. It’s one of Online Scam’s Greatest Hits and works like this. You search Craigslist for tickets to your chosen destination and you find a really good deal. That’s clue number one. The seller needs to sell them right away or they expire and he loses the money. That’s clue number two. And finally he asks that you use a wire transfer to send the money. That’s strike three and you lose. You learn all you need to know about this scam by clicking here.
And here is the latest you better know about. You are comfortable in your hotel room and enjoying your vacation. Now here is the scam. Someone calls the hotel and asks for room #1302. Lets say that’s your room. The operator connects the caller. You answer thinking it must be the hotel since anybody else would call your cell phone. If there is a caller ID it may show the call in coming from the hotel operator.
The next thing you hear is a person claiming to be the front desk. This voice tells you that there is a problem with your credit card and they need the number and the three digit verification code found on the back. Do I need to to tell you that your vacation ends right there if you surrender this information? That is everything a criminal needs to go shopping with your card.
This scam is working because people are too lazy to walk down to the desk to ask what the problem is. You and I both know that if there was a problem with your credit card you would not be in that room. Second, if you been in the hotel a few days then there is no problem and if there is then call your credit card company. You know your business and you know your money. So why would you listen to a voice over the phone? Because these scammers are very good and sound very professional. They can be very convincing. It can happen to you. If you get a call claiming to be from the front desk of your hotel then march your ass down to the front desk and deal with it in person!
Here is a few more steps I suggest black people to take when planning a vacation and also once you are on that fabulous getaway.
When booking your vacation
Before you leave home book your hotel room, beach houses or ocean bungalows first. And use a trusted website or travel agent. Forget using the website with the best deals. You’d be surprised how many people have lost their vacation money to a phony travel website. Or found the service just plain sucks for customer service. Do your homework! Read the reviews for the services you are going to use and re-confirm your booking; not through the website but call the hotels and airlines yourself.
Some people have time shares. Or you may use a friend’s time share. VRBO.com is an outstanding source on staying safe from scams when renting directly from property owners. As matter of fact it’s a pretty good guide for renting from anyone. Here’s a short list:
- Ask the owner for referrals from previous renters
- A popular scam is the phony property owner scam. Check the property for a homeowners association and ask if the person offering the property is the owner or authorized to do so.
- Ask what company provides professional cleaning services to the property and contact them or anyone else that services the property
- Make sure you receive a rental agreement or contract specifying all the important terms of the agreement. Check dates, cancellation policy, fees, deposits,insurance, everything! Its your money and your vacation. Don’t play.
- Use a credit card. Most cards have built-in protections for scams. There is no protection if you send cash or money transfer. And for the record, if the agency or person asks you to do a money transfer that’s a tip off to a scam. You can also ask to place a deposit with the balance do upon check in.
Securing your devices
We love our devices so if you take one, or more, with you you need to install some form of anti- theft protection. For Android devices Lookout has a security app that works for Apple as well. And Kaspersky labs offers an anti-theft for Android. My best advice is to treat your devices like money. Don’t let it out of your sight! You can find more information at the Kaspersky blog on protecting your devices. Or read my book “Securing Your Digital World.“
Write all your numbers down on paper and keep them in a safe place. There is no guarantee you will have internet access or that something won’t happen to your phone or tablet. Write emergency numbers down somewhere just in case. For example, a number of a close friend or relative in case of emergency, hotel number, flight reservation number, any number you may need. Don’t use hotel or public WiFi. Listen, hotels and resorts are hot targets for hackers and cyber thieves. Don’t believe me? Read this.
Finally, diversify your money. Don’t load up on cash. Keep a reasonable amount of cash with you. Have more than one credit card or debit card. And keep them separately. Whatever you are not using keep in the hotel room safe. If you lose one you can cancel it and go to the back up. Keep your passport in the safe as well unless you think you will need it. A good idea is to get a passport card with your passport. Now keep in mind that a passport card has limited use but should be enough in an emergency.
Now you know