Will this summer be dubbed a holidaymakers’ heaven with multitudes of Britons planning to head off to the sun, we’re not the only ones delighted by the prospect of a holiday bonus – card criminals are also likely to be rubbing their hands with glee.
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Many of us are already planning to grab a bit of sun, sea and sand this summer. But although getting a sunshine break without breaking the bank is something to be aware of you also need to keep another finance problem in mind!
“If you are planning to use a payment card when you go away, you need to follow some basic safety precautions,” says Pete Turner, managing director of Experian Interactive.
“Although card fraud abroad has more than halved in the past two years, card criminals still managed to get away with as much as £51.5 million of British travellers’ hard-earned money in recent years. And you may not even notice you’ve been a victim of fraud while you’re away – although you could well be dealing with the consequences for months after you get home.”
It only takes a bit of extra care and attention to keep your cards to yourself. These ten tips will help you stay ahead of the holiday fraudsters.
- Don’t take cards you don’t need. If you’re nervous about using your main credit or debit card, think about getting a prepaid card for your trip. It works like your normal card but, because funds are loaded onto it in advance, you only take as much as you need.
- Keep issuers informed. Best to tell your card issuers where and when you are going and give them contact details so they can get hold of you if they see any suspicious activity on your account. And take a note of the number to call if your card is lost or stolen while you’re away.
- Keep an eye on your plastic. Don’t let your card out of your sight, especially when paying at shops and in restaurants – someone could be copying the data it carries so they can use it online or over the phone, or to make up a blank card to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- Keep your private info private. Never keep your PIN with your card or give your PIN or passwords to anyone else. And be wary of holiday friends asking for personal details, such as your date of birth and address – they could be planning to impersonate you, clean out your accounts or borrow in your name.
- Take care at cash machines. Go with a friend, especially if you need to withdraw money at night, and make sure you hide your PIN from prying eyes. In a recent survey, 17 per cent of Britons said they didn’t bother to shield their PINs at cash machines, leaving themselves wide open to shoulder-surfers.
- Keep your cards safe. Don’t carry your plastic loose in a pocket or handbag – a concealed money belt is safest. If you don’t want to take your cards out, leave them in the hotel room safe.
- Don’t fall for scams. Be wary of strangers distracting you, especially at a cash machine. A common trick is to claim you’ve dropped some money – then steal your cash and card while your attention is elsewhere.
- Leave important documents at home. If you need to take your driving licence, treat it like money and keep it safe at all times. The same goes for your mobile phone – it’s not just your cards that can give fraudsters the key to your ID.
- Once you’re home, check your credit report. This lists your credit accounts, such as cards, loans and your mortgage, along with your payment history and details of new applications. Look for entries you don’t recognise. If you find anything, take it up at once with the relevant lender. You can see your Experian credit report for free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert. You’ll also be alerted if there are any significant changes to your credit report that could indicate ID fraud.
- Keep checking your accounts. Keeping an eye on your credit report and looking through your statements when they come in will mean you can see and respond to any suspicious activity straight away. Fraudsters sometimes wait several months before they strike, in the hope that you won’t notice.