Summer Road Trip Fraud and Security Tips

A record number of Americans are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more over the upcoming extended 4th of July weekend. AAA estimates that over 42 million people will hit the highways to celebrate the holiday – the highest number on record. Road trip season is in full swing, and despite gas prices inching ever higher and inflation driving up the cost of just about everything, many of us are still itching to get out and take advantage of the warm summer months. 

If you are planning on taking a road trip around Independence Day, or any other time this summer, it’s essential that you keep the risk of identity fraud and other security issues in the back of your mind. Your falling victim to identity theft can quickly ruin a vacation, and criminals don’t care where you are when they strike. The tips below can help reduce the risk of fraud and other security issues when you’re on the road, saving you from hassle and headaches to let you and your family better enjoy your time away. 

Keep an Eye Out for Travel Scams

Before booking any lodging or other accommodations on a road trip, it’s always a good idea to stay skeptical of any deals or offers that seem too good to be true. Travel scams are common surrounding major holidays, and bad actors take advantage of eager travelers looking for discounts and deals. These scams can appear in several ways, but when you see a ridiculously low offer for a rental online or via text or email, there’s a good chance it’s bogus. Do a bit of research into the property or business offering the accommodations to ensure that it is legit before providing any financial or personal information to the vendor. 

Robocalls or spam-like texts hyping discounted travel offers are often scams. Be extra cautious if these attempts pressure you into acting quickly to receive the deal. Legitimate businesses won’t reach out to you like this, and you should never act on impulse from an unsolicited message of any kind. Use established travel websites and apps for booking accommodations. Don’t trust the low deal or discounted rate you see from short term rental listings on Craigslist or other online sources that don’t have consumer protection measures in place.

Here are some other tips from the FTC for avoiding scams when traveling.

Monitor Charges and Notify Bank

While you might be tempted to check out from the digital world a bit while you are on your road trip, you should still keep a keen eye on your credit and debit card accounts while you travel. Your doing this will help you spot any potential fraudulent charges and allow you to report them before more of those bogus charges can occur. With mobile banking apps and their helpful services, such as charge notifications, it is easy for you to keep tabs on your accounts while you are on the go. You don’t need to pay constant attention, but your checking on things once a day or at least every other day can help you stay ahead of things if fraud does occur. 

You should also notify your bank of any upcoming travels. Many financial institutions have fraud protection measures in place that will block a card if it’s used in different geographic locations in a short period of time. It’s certainly a good feature, but it can backfire if your card gets blocked because you are using it during a trip. You can call your bank to inform them of your travel dates and locations to prevent the card from getting blocked. Many mobile banking apps also have features that allow you to record/submit this information with just a few clicks. 

Don’t Get Scammed by Skimmers

Current gas prices might make you shutter at the pump during a road trip, but you also need to know what a credit card skimmer is and how to spot one. Skimmers can be illegally installed into a gas pump, enabling thieves to steal your credit card information without your realizing it. Your gas transaction will go through just fine, but the scammers controlling the skimmer will now have access to your card number and other personal information thus enabling the perpetrator to commit fraud. 

Most skimmers work by scanning the magnetic strip on your credit or debit card. Using the chip or tap feature can prevent the information stored on your card from transferring to the skimmer. But you should also be wary of any gas pumps that appear out of sorts or otherwise tampered with. If the credit card reader on the pump looks extra bulky, loosely connected, or just seems out of place, there’s a good chance it’s a skimmer. You can also look at a few nearby pumps to ensure the one you are at appears the same as the others. If a pump seems suspect, it’s best to find another option. 

Be Careful with Public WiFi, Automatic Connections, and Devices

If you need internet access during your trip, always be careful with public WiFi. When logging in at a hotel, campground, café, or any other public setting, check with the staff to make sure you are accessing their designated WiFi and not an imitating network setup to steal personal information. Don’t use unsecured networks, and limit what website you access in a public setting. You don’t want shady shoulder surfers looking at your screen to get personal information. Think about enabling a mobile hotspot on your phone for your tablet/laptop computer to use so that you don’t need to access public WiFi during your trip. 

Disabling automatic connections is an easy preventative measure for travel. Features like Bluetooth are often set up to always search for a connection. This can come in handy sometimes, but if you are traveling, it allows for potential unauthorized access to your device. Another general travel tip is for you to limit what devices you bring along with you in the first place. Limiting the data, you have with you on the road helps to limits its potential for becoming compromised. Leave your tablet and computer at home if you don’t really need them. It’s easy for you to get by for an extended weekend with limited digital access, and your disconnecting a bit just might do you some good as well! 

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.