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Financial fraud: Tips to avoid March Break travel scams

Travelling for March Break? Whether you’re headed oversees, hitting up a resort or simply visiting a few towns away, travelling puts you at risk of financial fraud.

Before packing your suitcase, familiarize yourself with our top tips for avoiding credit fraud, identity theft, and other travel scams – we’ve compiled a checklist of things you need to watch out for before and during and after your trip.

Financial fraud tips to keep in mind before your trip:

  • Book travel through reputable and secure agencies

Don’t get lured into a deal that seems too good to be true, especially if it’s advertised on a travel site you haven’t heard of. A good rule of thumb? Research flight and hotel prices – if you see a deal that’s drastically cheaper, proceed with caution.

Here are a few simple tips that can help you determine the reputability of a travel site:

  1. Check the URL for an SSL certificate (https:// as opposed to http://). An SSL certificate indicates a website is secure, and should be included on payment pages.
  2. Look for a privacy policy which outlines how and why your information will be used; a fraudulent website likely won’t have one.
  3. Does the website only accept wire transfers as payment? Take that as a warning sign – wire transfers can’t be undone, unlike credit cards which usually block fraudulent purchases or offer a refund.
  • Book your travel on a credit card

On that note, book travel with a credit card whenever possible. Most credit card companies take responsibility for fraudulent charges, meaning you’re off the hook. However, it’s still important to be cautious when booking travel on your card. Fraudulent sites might steal and sell your credit card information, putting you at risk for identity theft.

The upside to booking travel on your credit card? Some credit cards offer free or reduced travel insurance for flights and hotel rooms that are booked using your card.

  • Stay on top of travel advisories

Check out the Government of Canada’s list of travel advisories before booking travel, and once again before leaving for your trip (since conditions could change). Travel advisories include warnings about safety and security (including fraud), diseases, natural disasters and more. Avoid booking travel to moderate or high-risk destinations – you could risk having to cancel the trip if conditions escalate. No matter the conditions of where you’re visiting, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Government of Canada’s advice for protecting against overseas fraud.

  • Sign-up for a credit monitoring service

Credit monitoring services send you alerts about potential fraud and suspicious credit activity. Choose a convenient way of staying up-to-date with alerts (text, email, phone call etc.), and enjoy your vacation worry-free knowing you’ll immediately be notified about potential credit fraud.

  • Ask the post office to hold your mail while travelling

The post office offers a service to hold your mail while you’re away on vacation, keeping any sensitive information safe and secure. There’s a service charge, but it may be worth it, especially if you’re taking an extended trip. Another option is to ask a trusted neighbour or family member to stop by and bring any mail inside while your away.

  • Notify your credit card company about your trip

Most major credit cards offer fraud detection meaning they will block suspicious charges. Any foreign transactions you make while away could potentially freeze your card, so it’s good idea to notify your provider. In addition to this, your credit card company can flag any potential fraudulent charges after you’re back from your trip (in case your information was compromised while travelling).

Financial fraud tips to keep in mind during your trip:

  • Keep your financial institution and credit card company’s contact info handy

Contact your financial institution or credit card company ASAP if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, or if you lose your debit or credit cards. Any fraud threat is stressful enough, so you’ll be happy to have the information you need to get in contact with the right people as quickly as possible.

  • Carry an RFID blocking wallet and passport

Radio frequency Identification is a type of electronic pickpocketing used to collect sensitive information from your wallet. RFID blocking wallets and passports are a great way to proactively prevent credit fraud and identify theft, and keep your wallet contents safe.

  • Use foreign ATMs with caution

Always investigate foreign ATMs for evidence of being tampered with.

Here are signs to look for that that might indicate an ATM has been tampered with:

  1. Are there people loitering around the machine? Be cautious – they might be trying to read your pin.
  2. Look for a loose, blocked or wider card slot – scammers install special card slots that eat your card, so they can obtain your information.
  3. Does the pin pad feel loose? Some scammers cover the real pin pad with a fake one. It captures your pin while you complete your transaction and remain unaware.

And, don’t forget to protect your pin. Some scammers will install unauthorized cameras on ATMs to try and access your card and pin information. Always cover the pin pad with your hand (even if no one’s around).

  • Use the hotel safe

Only carry the minimum amount of cash and cards in your wallet. Anything else should be placed in your hotel safe to keep sensitive documents safe.

Financial fraud tips to keep in mind after your trip:

  • Continue monitoring your credit

It can take a few weeks or even months for fraudulent activity to appear on your credit report, so it’s important to stay on top of your report and watch for any suspicious activity. If you signed up for a credit monitoring service, continue to monitor your credit report for a few months after you return from your trip.

And while you’re at it, look for other signs that may indicate fraud. Do you get calls for debts you don’t owe? Do you receive statements for credit cards you don’t have? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, make sure you take the necessary actions to deal with the fraud.

  • Take immediate action if your suspect you’ve been a victim of financial fraud or identity theft

You’re back from your trip, and you notice a suspicious line on your credit report or a potentially fraudulent charge on your credit card. What do you do now?

Here are the actions you should take:*

  1. Contact your local authorities to report the fraud
  2. It’s also a good idea to make a report to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
  3. Contact Service Canada if your SIN number is stolen or missing
  4. If your bank accounts and cards are at risk, contact your financial institution immediately
  5. Continue to monitor your credit report for suspicious activity

Don’t let fear of fraud stop you from travelling, or enjoying your vacation. While travelling comes with risks, this information should help you feel financially prepared, so you can enjoy your trip with minimal distractions. Safe travels!

Looking for more fraud resources? Check out these articles:

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*This article is for informational purposes only. For personalized financial advice, you should contact a qualified financial advisor.