The holidays are fast upon us, and just like thieves haunting the mall parking lot looking for an easy mark, on-line crooks are eyeing your wallet. While you can’t stop every theft, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and reduce your exposure. It’s bad enough to have to travel during the holidays, don’t add the loss of your phone, pad, or computer (or the information contained in them) to the stress.
Some basic guidelines will help you prevent identity theft and loss of your proprietary data files as you travel this season (or anytime, for that matter).
Can you see me now?
Keep that smart phone or tablet out of sight. Don’t set it down while you rummage through your bags looking for your ID. Don’t stick them in the side pockets of your travel bad or backpack. Don’t leave electronics laying in the car seat, and put charger cords in the glove box when not in use. Out of sight is out of the thief’s mind.
How many phones do you have?
Your phone, the company phone, the company laptop, your laptop, the iPad, your MP3 player. How many devices do you really need? Decide what is required, and take only that. More to keep track of is more to lose track of. Keep it simple.
Wi-Fi here, Wi-Fi there, free Wi-Fi is everywhere.
Don’t do it. You may rack up some costs by using your data plan over the “free” Wi-Fi, but security can be problematic on such public systems. You have no idea on how well the access point is secured, whether it’s configured to prevent other users from seeing your connection, or what other issues may be involved. There’s also the issue of speed. Some are throttled back to less than dial up! (I’ve tested a local sandwich shop’s “free Wi-Fi” several times. Download was less than .5 megabits p/s, while my data was at 10 megabits. So not worth the “free”. A local coffee shop wasn’t much better. Both are national chains.)
Update that puppy.
You know you’re leaving soon. Be sure your devices are up-to-date on virus protection and security patches. Don’t wait until the last minute, when you’re juggling a bunch of things trying to get out the door. If you’re not sure how to do it, call your network administrator, and get it done. Or your teenager. (Well, maybe not the teenager.)
Click here. Download this. What was your password?
Don’t fall for email scams, asking you to go to your credit card’s website (link conveniently provided right there) and “update” your information. Don’t download a “special viewer” or an “update” to your browser. Don’t click on that attachment if you don’t know where it came from or you weren’t expecting it. Email “phishing” is one of the most common means whereby hackers gain access to your computer or other devices.
Hey everybody! I’m gone!
If you live alone, or the entire family is going with you, don’t broadcast your trip on social media. Don’t let folks know your house, chock full of the latest electronic goodies (because you’re one of those ‘got to have the latest thing’ types-or you just have some possessions you’d rather not lose), is going to be unattended. Wait until you get back to post those pictures of your holiday fun times (or even those holiday work times).
Swipe, swipe, swipe.
Be careful when you use your cards on self-serve machines. Give the card slot a little twist or tweak (gently, don’t break it!) and make sure there is not a ‘skimmer’ slipped onto the legitimate device. Identity thieves use these devices to read the magnetic strip on your card. Don’t ruin your trip by finding out your credit card is suddenly maxed out, or your checking account balance is at zero.
A few basic steps, a maintained vigilance, and you will keep your holiday trip safe, enjoyable, and profitable.