Let’s face it, hardly anyone carries around cash anymore. With new advances in technology and banking, paying has literally become, plastic, or, plastic.
Unfortunately, along with these advances in the way we pay for our services and goods, comes an increased chance of being exposed to frauds and scams.
Credit card fraud and scams are in the news just about everywhere now a days and one place where scammers often get a hold of your information is while you are on vacation.
So what can travelers do you protect themselves while on vacation?
There are a number of tips and precautions that travelers can follow to avoid these scams. Sundance Vacations dove a little deeper into the research and what the experts are saying about this subject and came away with these five tips.
Feel free to share them with your friends and family as the more informed everyone is on this subject, the more likely it is that we can help put an end to credit card fraud.
1. Preparation is key
Planning a trip, like anything else, can sometimes be a lengthy process, however with time put in at the beginning, things are likely to go a lot smoother during the vacation.
How does this relate to credit card scams?
Well, just like you would plan to pack lightly for a vacation, travelers should also learn to pack a little lighter in the wallet.
Remember, only bring what you NEED. This means, if you have a few credit cards, it might be a good idea to leave one or two of them home. With less cards in your wallet, there will be less of a chance that scam artists will be able to take advantage of you. Plus, keeping track of only one or two cards is a lot easier than five or six. If you lose one, you’ll be more likely to notice the fact that it’s missing.
If you absolutely insist on bringing all your cards along with you, consider only carrying one on you while you are away from your hotel or resort. That way you still have a backup if you need, but they are out of harm’s way, safely tucked away in your luggage or room’s safe.
Credit Card Companies often suggest that you should call them and let them know you are headed on a vacation to a different area or country. While this can help you from having your card declined when you are trying to use it, you may want to forgo this step.
It’s a lot easier for you to call and tell the company you need a purchased authorized then it is to call them, have the card shut off and worry about fraudulent charges. Although this may go against conventional thinking, it’s a step, or skipped step, that could save you a lot of headache in the worst-case scenario.
One last thing in the preparation category. Be sure that you make a list of the credit cards you are taking with you, including account numbers, telephone numbers to reach the companies and anything else you may need. Store this in a separate place from your wallet, in case your wallet gets taken completely, and that way you’ll be ready to call and cancel any cards in the event someone steals your wallet.
2. Leave the debit card at home
Many travelers don’t know that credit cards actually provide a lot more fraud protection than a debit card would. If you have a regular credit card, you may want to opt for bringing that and leaving the bank card at home or in the hotel room.
If someone steals your credit card, or it’s information, the majority of the companies out there offer some form of fraud protection, resulting in the traveler only having to pay some small fees rather than whatever the thief or scammer can run up before you get a hold of the credit card company.
Debit cards on the other hand, work a little differently. If caught early, most banks will charge only fees, but if it goes on for a number of days, travelers could be forced to repay all the fraudulent charges as well as the fees associated with them. Yikes.
Your best bet is to try and avoid using a debit card all together. Often times you’ll have to use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) with them and if the evil-doers of the world get a hold of that PIN, well the banks may not side with you when it comes to purchases you didn’t make.
3. Keep an eye on your card
While on vacation, or anytime really, be sure you are keeping an eye on your credit card. From the time it leaves your wallet until the time it returns, it is technically at risk.
Don’t let a merchant or cashier walk away into another room with your card, try to make sure you are in line of sight at all times.
Machines that steal credit-card information, called skimmers, can be very small and portable, meaning that scammers can only need a few seconds in a small room away from you in order to gain access to your accounts.
Obviously there are going to be times when you won’t be able to keep your eagle-eyes on that little plastic form of payment, such as restaurants and bars, but that is where good monitoring will come in handy.
4. Monitor your accounts online
It’s crucially important, again whether you are on vacation or at home, to keep an eye on the accounts associated with your credit cards.
Proper monitoring can allow you to find discrepancies and charges that don’t belong to you early on. This will allow you to contact the card company and get the ball rolling on a solution to the problem. Rather than you getting an outrageous bill or them calling you about some, “suspicious charges,” on your account.
Keep in mind that these charges aren’t always going to be a $5,000 television. They can show up as very small charges at first, gas, restaurants or even smaller store purchases.
Most companies have apps or websites that you can access via a laptop or smartphone. Some even offer text alerts that will be sent directly to you. Choose the method that best fits you and you’ll be on your way to having a safer relationship with your credit cards.
In a perfect world you’d be able to keep an eye on your card at all times, but we all know that’s just not possible. So if it has to leave your hands, the next best thing you can do is keep a close eye on the charges that are being placed on your account.
5. If it seems weird
Use your gut feeling.
If something seems a little off to you, chances are, it is. Even if by some long shot it’s not, it’s better to be cautious then end up with a case of credit card fraud, or even worse, identity theft.
There are a lot of creative ways out there that scammers try to get a hold of your information. It’s literally like a 9-to-5 job for them. So you just need to look at the situation and trust your instincts.
Is Sundance Vacations legit? Yes. Is buying a pair of pants at JC Penny legit? Yes. Is receiving a call in the middle of the night from the front desk, telling you your card information didn’t process correctly and asking you to provide it again legit? Probably not.
Just use your noggin and you’ll do fine.
The front desk example from above is just one of the many prospective scams we have heard about here at Sundance Vacations. Rip-offs like these are designed to get you feeling comfortable and then when you least expect it, you end up with a huge credit card bill that you didn’t run up.
So how can you protect yourself from things like this while you are away?
I hate to say avoid shady places, because often times some of the best restaurants and coolest things to see can be in what some may consider, “shady,” however travelers should use their better judgement when choosing an establishment to eat or buy things in.
The internet can be a tremendously powerful tool in this situation. Almost every business today has a website, places like restaurants, shops, bars and even Sundance Vacations! Reviews for these places of business can be found on websites like Google, Tripadvisor and more.
Do a little bit of research before you head out for the day and you could end up saving yourself from a terrible headache.
So to summarize
- Credit card safety starts at the planning stage. Be sure to prepare yourself by only bringing one or two cards, leaving one of them in the hotel room and by writing down all of the cards important information and storing it in a safe place.
- Try to bring a regular credit card along with you on your travels. Debit cards don’t have the same level of protection that a normal credit card would, so it may be best to let the bank card sit this vacation out.
- Keep an eye on your card. Try not to let it out of your sight, at least as much as you can.
- Use the internet for assistance. Nearly every hotel has free Wi-Fi anymore, take advantage of it by using a laptop or phone app to track your spending.
- Go with your gut. If something seems a little too fishy to you, take your business elsewhere.
Credit cards can be an immensely powerful tool to use while you are on vacation, but just as Uncle Ben told Spiderman in the comics, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Meaning, you need to be vigilant with your finances.
Use these handy tips from Sundance Vacations and you should have very little to worry about when it comes to credit card fraud and scams while on vacation.
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