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Don’t let what happened to Julie on vacation happen to you: essential travel safety tips

My friend Julie was on holiday in Rome with her 14-year-old daughter. During their visit, they stopped to take some selfies. Noticing his struggle to fit himself into the frame and the splendor of the background, a seemingly kind stranger — in his 30s — offered to take his picture.

Mary punched in her PIN to unlock her iPhone and handed it to him. To his utter horror, the supposedly good Samaritan turned out to be a thief. He snatches her phone and runs away, leaving Maryam and her daughter speechless. His iPhone was gone, and the thief had his PIN.

This is the only way a cybercriminal or a real-life schemer can ruin your trip. Before you get on the plane or get in the car, read these tips to stay safe on your next vacation.

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1. Do not post pictures of your boarding pass or other travel documents.

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You are excited, waiting for the plane. What’s wrong with posting a photo of your boarding pass? completely. Boarding passes show your full legal name, ticket number and passenger name record. That six-digit code and your last name gives anyone access to your online booking information.

The same goes for your license, passport, visa or other identification documents. Thieves look for any details they can use.

Put these photos on your phone before vacation — scroll down to #3. You’ll thank me if anything goes missing!

2. Watch what you do on public Wi-Fi.

Free Wi-Fi at the airport, hotel or cafe is tempting (who wants to pay?), but it’s not always secure. A savvy cybercriminal can use open networks to intercept your data. Rule #1: Never use a public connection to do your online banking, access files containing sensitive information, or log into important accounts.

If you need to do this, switch to a virtual private network (VPN) or Your phone’s hotspot.

A view of the Trevi Fountain square with tourists on June 3, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Roncini/Noor Photo via Getty Images)

3. Maintain an air of mystery

Sharing your live location with your friends on social media is a clear invitation: My house is empty! In a perfect world, you’d wait to post vacation pictures and updates until you get home. If you can’t wait, at least you can make sure all your profiles are private. Just be aware that your posts can still spread outside of people you trust, regardless of your settings.

4. Keep your residence private

Like broadcasting your flight information, you should also keep the name or location of your hotel or Airbnb close to your chest. A creep can do a lot with this information in the wrong hands. If you must share, stick with the city or general area. Wait for your new favorite hotel to show up when you get home.

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5. Double-check your location settings.

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Some social media apps automatically tag your location in photos, check-ins or updates. Even if you’re careful about what you post, social media sites can spill the beans without you even realizing it. Double-check your posts to make sure auto-location tags aren’t enabled. If they are, you can adjust it in your settings or remove it from every post.

Who (or what) are you sharing your location with? Check your settings now.

6. Details are also private.

Posting a daily breakdown of your trip is serious firepower in the wrong hands. If you tell the world you’re going out snorkeling on Saturday, a criminal knows, “Score! The hotel is empty!”

The clerk smiles at a family in the hotel.

A hotel clerk greets guests who are checking in. This is a wealthy African American couple with their child. The smiling clerk turns to them. (iStock)

7. Beware of public charging stations

Public charging stations feel like a godsend when your battery is dying, and you have nowhere to plug in, but they’re surprisingly easy to tamper with. With just a USB cord, a cybercriminal can install malware or siphon data from any device that’s plugged in to charge.

So you should carry your own portable battery bank. It won’t take up much space in your bag, and you’ll be happy if your charge goes down.

8. Use two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a layer of security that requires another way to identify that you want to access an account other than just a password. Usually, this is a code sent via email/SMS or to another device. Yes, it adds an extra step, but it can deter hackers if your password is compromised.

9. Be picky where you use a credit card

They may be relatively low-tech compared to smart tools, but card scammers are not unheard of. These small devices attach to card readers at stores, ATMs or external payment locations — and collect all of your card information.

Don’t use your credit card anywhere. ATMs and gas stations in rural areas are major targets that do not have security cameras. If you feel awkward, stick to cash or your phone’s built-in payment options.

Not sure how? Here’s your guide to paying with your smartphone.

10. Monitor your technology

Friends talk

A young woman is talking to a female friend about her problem in a cafe. A friend is helpful and understanding. (iStock)

You are working in a cafe in your favorite city away from home. Packing everything to go to the bathroom or get a new mattress is annoying. did you? Absolutely.

A few seconds is enough for someone to swipe your device. Within minutes, someone can install spyware or other malicious software that you never knew was there.

If your phone goes missing, good news: you can wipe it remotely. Take steps now to make sure you’re prepared in case the worst happens.

Keep up with your technical knowledge

My popular podcast is called “Kim Commando todayIt’s 30 minutes of tech news, tips and tricks for callers from all over the country with tech questions like yours. Find your podcasts wherever you want. For your convenience, click on the link below for the latest episode.

Podcast picks: Netflix’s Heartbreaking Feature, $200K+ Virtual Knife and UFO Hotspot Revealed

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Listen to the podcast here. Or wherever you find your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Commando.”

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