Stay cyber safe while traveling

In the classic kid flick Home Alone, a couple of hapless robbers wait for the McCallisters to leave on vacation before breaking into their house. That forces little Kevin—who has been accidentally left behind—to outsmart them and protect the property.

That was then. Thieves have become a lot more sophisticated since Home Alone was released in 1990. They’re using a new tool, social media, to plan for malicious activity. But you can take a leaf from Kevin’s book and still outsmart them if you follow these tips.

Takeaways

  • Don’t share your travel plans on social media. It’s tempting to tell friends and family about an upcoming trip. But you might be alerting bad guys to your absence as well.
  • You shouldn’t reveal your vacation activities on line in real time either. If you do, you risk getting robbed on your trip.
  • Don’t forget to take basic precautions before leaving home, such as notifying your credit card issuer that you’ll be traveling, putting your mail on hold and pausing newspaper subscriptions.

Don’t let on that you’re leaving town ...

Rule number one: Don’t share your travel plans on social media. It’s tempting to tell friends and family about an upcoming trip. But you might be alerting bad guys to your absence as well.

While you’re at it, make sure to review every member of your family’s privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social networks before you leave town to ensure none of you shares anything unintentionally.

Take it from Jamie Howard, Deputy Head of Fraud Risk Management at UBS. “When you post travel plans in advance ... you put yourself at a big risk,” he says. Not only does this tempt criminals to break into your home, cyber crooks also see vacations as an opportunity to hack your accounts. While you’re away on your adventure, they could be going on a week-long shopping spree using your credentials or draining your bank accounts.

... except to your card issuers

At the same time, you should contact your credit card and debit card issuers to let them know you plan to use your cards while traveling, so your transactions are not flagged as fraud. But don’t share that information with anyone publicly.

Don’t publish your itinerary or location

You shouldn’t reveal your vacation activities on line in real time either, adds Ellen Segriff, Head of Privacy, Cyber and Information Security for Wealth Management in the Americas, UBS. If you do, you risk getting robbed on your trip. “Don't take pictures of yourself at the airport telling everyone that you’re going on a flight,” she says.

In fact, publishing anything about your travel itinerary is bad practice. Limit that information to close family and friends and share it with them directly—not on social media. Meticulous planning can help you enjoy a dream vacation but divulging your intentions in advance could lead to problems: Unscrupulous locals like to target tourists.

Before leaving, install any recommended system and app updates on the devices you plan to take along with strong antivirus and security software. Also, consider turning off your GPS. Photos posted in real time might have geolocation information that allows viewers to find your precise whereabouts, putting you in the crosshairs of pickpockets and other criminals who prey on tourists.

Follow profile privacy best practices

Of course, you shouldn’t limit social media security to travel season. You can take steps to strengthen your profile security year-round. For example, “make sure your devices have the latest antivirus protection. You should always be doing that,” Segriff says.

She stresses that you should avoid public WiFi and hotspots—especially when checking financial statements, confidential e-mail and other sensitive data—as there is always some risk it may be intercepted by a bad actor.

Both at home and away, it’s smart to check in on your account activity regularly so you can stop fraud right away—not after days, weeks or even months.

Consider an alarm system

Don’t forget to take basic precautions before leaving home, too. Howard suggests putting your mail on hold, adding “The last thing you want is a mailbox stuffed with documents advertising you’re away.” Pausing newspaper subscriptions is also wise.

You may also want to invest in a burglar alarm, security cameras or other devices to give your home more protection if you think they’ll provide you with enough bang for the buck. Some systems will even alert you on your cell phone if someone who looks suspicious approaches your property.

Stay safe when traveling the world

The bottom line: “You can’t be on vacation when it comes to handling social media or e-mail,” Segriff says. But with the right attitude toward security and a few basic precautions, you can enjoy a stress-free, fun and safe trip anywhere your travels take you.

Are you doing everything you can to protect and grow your wealth? Together we can find an answer. Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor or find one.

Disclosures

Research from CIO GWM is provided by UBS Financial Services Inc. UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico is a subsidiary of UBS Financial Services Inc. In Canada, research from CIO GWM is provided by UBS Investment Management Canada Inc.

The views expressed in the research provided do not constitute a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, investment strategies, financial situation and needs of any specific individuals. They are based on numerous assumptions. Different assumptions could result in materially different results. We recommend that you obtain financial and/or tax advice as to the implications (including tax) prior to investing.

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