Traveling This Holiday Season? Beware of Identity Theft.

  • Nov 7, 2016
  • Originally published by Stop.Think.Connect
Image Traveling This Holiday Season? Beware of Identity Theft.

As the holiday season approaches, the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign reminds travelers heading to crowded airports, train, and bus stations to be vigilant with their electronic devices. While many rely on these devices for travel arrangements and holiday shopping, thieves may try to take advantage of unsuspecting victims on the go. The holidays are a peak time for traveling and hacking alike - in fact, identity theft continues to top the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, with American consumers reporting a loss of over $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013.

Recent news coverage on identity theft cites two major challenges for travelers: the use of unsecured wireless networks at hotels, airports, and other public places and the infiltration of smartphones through Bluetooth technology. Travelers should also be aware that the hospitality industry is the second highest targeted industry for data breaches, behind financial services, according to Verizon.

 

Follow these simple steps from the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) to protect yourself and your personal information while traveling:

 

 

  • Password protect your devices. According to Consumer Reports, about 3.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft in 2013. However, the proportion of those who used the simplest protection, setting a 4-digit PIN code to lock their phone’s screen, increased by about 50 percent compared to the year before. Everyone tends to be very busy during the holidays and moving a mile a minute. If you put your phone down event for a moment, you give thieves potential access to all your phone’s sensitive information such as photos, passwords, files, and more.  By password-protecting your device, at least whoever stole your item – even if it’s just your little brother during the holiday dinner – cannot access your information.
  • Downplay your laptop or smartphone. There is no need to advertise to thieves that Santa left you a new, shiny laptop or smartphone under the tree. Avoid using your new portable device in public areas, and consider non-traditional bags for carrying your laptop.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you do use your mobile device in a public area, pay attention to people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from "shoulder surfers" (i.e., make sure that no one can see you type your passwords or see any sensitive information on your screen).
  • Turn Bluetooth off. Cyber criminals have the know-how to pair their Bluetooth device with yours to steal personal information. Take a minute to check your settings to ensure your Bluetooth is turned off when you do not need to use it.
  • Be wary of Wi-Fi networks. Only connect to secure networks and only use those that ask for a network security key. Checking email, financial accounts, or online shopping over unsecure networks provides an easy gateway for hackers to access your information.  Also, look over the privacy statement to see what that network provider may be collecting from your computer.
  • Back up your files. If your portable device is stolen, it is bad enough that someone else may be able to access your information. In addition, no one wants to lose their holiday vacation pictures and entertaining videos of the children opening their presents. To avoid losing all of the information on your device, be sure to make a backup of important information and store the backup in a secure location.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more tips on how to stay safe this holiday season, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect