It’s no secret that Americans love vacations — 37% of families say that vacations make them more happy than any other family activity. Additionally, more than 11% of U.S. households headed by 35-54-year-olds own an RV, exceeding the 9.3% ownership rates of those 55 and over. However, today’s technology gives hackers the upper hand in stealing credit card information, and experts are urging travelers to stay informed.
Cyberthieves are mostly targeting resorts and beaches, according to CNET. The reason is simple: these destinations are an information goldmine about unsuspecting tourists with extra spending money. Outdoor ATMs are especially easy targets for criminals, who can install hardware that steals customer information every time someone puts in a credit card to withdraw cash.
However, that’s not the only way hackers are stealing credit card numbers. About 52% of respondents to a survey worldwide expected to vacation at the beach in the next 12 months, and if they’re staying at a resort, they need to exhibit extra caution.
“It’s like why people rob banks. That’s where the money is,” said Scott Petry, co-founder of the secure browser Authentic8. “If people go to vacation, they go to resorts.”
Hotels and resorts have been a popular target for cyberthieves lately. Last year, more than 1,200 InterContinental Hotels were hacked in just three months, and each one included theft of valuable credit card information. Personal information is also susceptible — names, addresses, phone numbers, and hotel reservation details can easily be obtained by thieves.
“Point-of-service systems have become notoriously insecure,” said Adam Levin, a consumer advocate and chairman of Cyberscout. “Can you think of anyone that hasn’t had a [breach] at a hotel? There are very few that have escaped so far.”
More than half of Millennials and Gen Xers say cost is a barrier to leisure travel, but only 45% of Boomers agree — this means that the older generations may have a higher risk of becoming a target.
Experts say there is a way to keep yourself protected. Public Wi-Fi spots are notorious for emulating secure networks despite their illegitimacy, especially in foreign countries.
“People typically have their guard down when they’re on vacation,” said Spinner, vice president of field engineering at software protection company Varonis. “They won’t consider what the implications are if they go to a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot.”
The key to staying protected lies in encryption. Spinner suggests avoiding visiting public ATMs or entering any personal or sensitive information online during vacations, in addition to always using an encrypted connection.
For the best protection, he also suggests that travelers leave all their electronic devices at home. Not all trips allow for this, of course, but some activities, such as camping, can be a great opportunity to reset the biological clock and get away from screens for awhile. In fact, a study done by the Institute of Education at Plymouth University revealed that 95% of parents agreed that their kids appeared happier while on kid friendly vacations such as camping.
Ultimately, Spinner agrees that cyberthieves will always find a way to access information.
“I think it’s becoming harder and harder for people to keep their information private,” he said.
As a result, anyone planning a vacation during Summer 2017 should keep a close eye on their banking account. While travelers used to be wary of traveling with cash, traveling with credit cards may now be much riskier.