It is that time of year when you yearn for a vacation. Everything is already available online. You can book your place for staying and maybe a car on rental. This post lists what to do to avoid scams that may leave you hanging off a cliff, waiting for help. Vacations are meant for enjoyment. Make sure you stay safe on vacation by following these holiday cyber security tips.
1] Rental Scams
The easiest way to book accommodation, food, and a vehicle to roam around is to book them online. Before finalizing the deal(s), you have to read the finer points of print so that you are not deceived.
There are people who claim to be tourist guides. They have their own websites showing you the services they offer. Behind such websites, there might be cyber-criminals lurking just to get your money. The Federal Trade Commission asks you to make sure you are not talking to a cyber-criminal who claims to be a vacation expert.
2] Book things in advance
Get recommendations from your friends and family for traveling – good travel agencies, or personal recommendations to hire a room where you’d are likely to relax. There are all sorts of offers that promise you the moon in hand. Stay away from such agents.
Look for reviews related to the hotel that you want to book. These reviews are available on different websites and also on Google Maps. You can further search the Internet using the word ‘reviews’ with your probable hotel name. For example, if you wish to check out XYZ Hotel, search for ‘XYZ Hotel reviews.” You can also add the place you are visiting, to the search term. It would look like this “XYZ Hotels, California, reviews.” This will help you see what are people, in general, are talking about any particular hotel.
The same applies to car rentals in case you want to hire one for enjoying your tours and detours.
Don’t pay upfront until you are sure that you have an honest bargain at hand. But keep an eye on ‘too good to be true” offers too.
3] Look out for Extra Charges
Check out the extra costs on everything you book. They may be hidden deep in the terms and conditions or in the name of tax. You should ask about taxes in the place you want to vacation so that you know how much extra you will have to spend on accommodation, rental cars, and even on food.
Do not believe when someone offers you a vacation for free or at a low cost. Check with the providers to see what all is covered and how much you may require on the vacation gift you just got. Do not accept the “free” vacation if it asks you to pay some fee upfront.
Buy travel insurance only from known and licensed insurers. Use credit cards instead of cash so that you can dispute unauthorized charges. If paid in cash, you cannot reclaim the money easily.
Always use credit cards so that in case of any disputes, you can reclaim the extra amount you might have paid on anything.
4] Plan vacations in advance
Planning the vacation helps you find everything you need online and book them according to your convenience.
Holiday cyber-security tips
- Your smart gadgets may be compromised if you use them carelessly.
- Use a VPN when transacting online.
- It is always better to carry their own Internet Dongle or data card instead of using Public Wi-Fi
- Public Wi-Fi is a security risk as any cybercriminal may easily gain access at such Wi-Fi places. This post on Wi-Fi security when Traveling may help you.
- Public Wi-Fi is good only if you need a connection just to browse harmless sites.
- For online transactions, use dedicated Internet dongle; if the dongle is not available, encrypt the browsing session on Public Wi-Fi using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Some of them (VPNs) are free to use while most of them now come at a cost
- To secure the device(s) further, use a good password for the device(s) on the login screen; it applies to all smart devices – smartphones, tablets, a laptop, and similar things like smartwatches
- Bluetooth can be used to access your device; if Bluetooth is ON on your device, it will be visible to others who might be scanning for Bluetooth devices. Turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it. Hackers can pair with your phone’s open Bluetooth connection when you are not using it and steal personal information.
- Try and don’t use charging points available at airports and other such places; if it is a USB connection for charging, you may fall prey to data theft as the USB cable can easily be used to procure and send information to the device you are charging.
- Finally, keep a backup of whatever data/files you deem necessary; if you have a cloud backup like OneDrive, backing up becomes easier
- You might have heard of Phishing; you might get localized information on texts and WhatsApp; don’t click any links in the messages as they compromise your device. Also, the URLs in SMS or WhatsApp tend to by short URLs; you don’t know where they lead to; use URL expansion tools to see if a link is spurious
These are some holiday cyber security tips that help you stay safe on vacation. If you want to add something, please use the comments section.