By AARP Illinois, Special for USDR
Millions of Americans prepare to travel during the upcoming holiday season – and many of them may be at risk when they go online using public wifi while on transit or at hotel rooms and other public places. That is why AARP’s Fraud Watch Networks has teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security top help make sure Americans stay “cybersafe” and enjoy the holidays.
“The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones,” said Gerardo Cardenas, AARP Illinois Communications Manager. “The last thing you want is for your vacation to be ruined because your identity has been compromised or your information hacked when you went online using public connections.”
Travelers are often easy prey for hackers as they are forced to rely on public wifi or computers, or when they leave their electronic devices unattended in hotel rooms or in-transit.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network encourages consumers to be vigilant about practicing safe, online habits. Working with Homeland Security, AARP’s fraud Watch Network recommends following simple steps before and during your travels to help stay protected when you or your loved ones are away from home.
Before You Leave:
Along with confirming your itinerary and packing, add these to-dos to your checklist:
- Minimize the number of electronic devices you bring on your travels to those you can carry on your person. This makes it less likely for your devices to get stolen or compromised.
- Update your mobile software before you go. Keep your operating system software and apps on your mobile device updated, which will improve your device’s ability to defend against malicious software also known as ‘malware’.
- Turn off Wi-Fi and remote connectivity when idle. Some devices will automatically seek and connect to available wireless networks. Bluetooth, for example, enables your device to connect wirelessly with other devices, such as headphones or automobile infotainment systems. Disable these features so that you only connect to wireless and Bluetooth networks when you want to.
- Create strong passwords. Before you leave home, make sure you have strong passwords on all of your electronic devices. Passwords should be at least eight characters in length with both numbers, letters and special characters (@!$?). Create unique passwords for each device.
- Enable stronger authentication. Stronger authentication (also known as two-factor or multi-factor authentication) adds an extra layer of security beyond using a password to access your accounts. Most major e-mail, social media and financial platforms offer multi-factor authentication to their users. Be sure to ask your service provider if you can activate this feature before departing on your trip.
While You’re Away:
Be mindful of your Internet activity and how you can protect your privacy as well as your device:
- Keep your phone locked. Always lock your device when you are not using it. Even if you only step away for a few minutes, that is enough time for someone to steal or destroy your information. Use strong PINs and passwords for your accounts and lock screen.
- Think before you connect. Before you connect to any public wireless hotspot such as those in an airport, hotel, train/bus station, or café be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. Many fake networks have seemingly legitimate names.
- Protect your money and your information. Do not conduct sensitive activities, such as online shopping, banking, or sensitive work, using a public wireless network or a public computer.
- Delete your cookies and cache. If you use the Internet on a public computer (such as at a hotel or café) while you are traveling, be sure to delete your cookies in the web browser after you have finished. When you are on the Internet, a browser saves your information and this saved data is called a “cookie.”
- Don’t broadcast your location. Many social media platforms offer location-tagging as part of their features, which allows users to include their location when they post online. Avoid using these location features and do not announce on social media that you will be out of town.
In 2014, AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network to arm Americans with the tools and resources they need to spot and avoid scams and identity theft. But scammers are still out there, making every attempt possible to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money. The public can sign up for free to receive Fraud Watch Network alerts and more at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
SOURCE AARP Illinois