Though it can be daunting (and a little more expensive) to travel outside of the country, it's worth every penny to discover a different world outside of the one you know.
An overseas adventure can be a lot of fun, but there are a lot of potential risks you should prepare for before you leave. Follow these tips and tricks for how to keep your money safe while you are abroad.
Before you go:
Notify Your Bank
Let your bank know when you'll be gone and where you are traveling. This will help draw more attention to monitoring your accounts and avoid any possibility of temporary deactivation of your accounts.
Download the App
Since you won't be able to go to your bank in person, make sure your bank has an online option. Banks with mobile apps are even better because you can check on your account from your device, no matter where you are.
Set up account alerts
You may have little cell service when traveling abroad. If you’ll be traveling for an extended time, consider getting an international cellular phone plan. Alternatively, connecting to secure Wi-Fi will allow you to receive notifications and emails from your bank about account activity. This way, you can stay in the know and identify fraud attempts before it’s too late.
Check Your Credit Card
Research what the international transaction fee is for your specific credit card. If you plan to spend a lot of time abroad, consider a card that has minimal to no foreign fees.
Photocopy necessary documents
If your wallet gets stolen, you’ll want to have backup copies of important documents. Make sure you have copies of your passport, debit and credit card numbers. Be sure to keep these copies in a separate place as your original documents.
Have cash on handIt is also important to determine if your debit card will be accepted. A debit card may not always be accepted somewhere. Plus, a credit card has a better rate of exchange (lower international transaction fee) and fraud protection. Since a debit card is a direct link to the funds in your checking account, it's more risky if compromised and you'd be without money until your bank can resolve the issue. With a credit card, it's not directly tied to your money, so it's more secure. Plus many credit cards come with more fraud protection services than a debit card.
Depending on how long you’re traveling, purchase foreign currency from a Central Bank location before you leave. Not only will the exchange rate likely be better, but it will also mean fewer visits to the ATMs where identity theft commonly occurs. Be smart with how much foreign currency you take with you as it’s not quite usable when you return home. In some locations abroad, USA currency is acceptable, so do your research before you leave.
When you get to your destination:
Be aware of pickpockets and common scams
Crowded places are a playground for pickpocketers. Watch out for people who bump into you and be careful where you keep your wallet. Consider keeping it in your front pocket, in a crossbody bag, or fanny pack in front of you. Common Scams to look out for:
- Friendship Bracelet Scam: This happens when someone comes up to you and tries to put a bracelet on you, while telling you a story. If you do not tell them that you don’t want it, they will force you to pay. If someone tries to give you something on the street for free, do not trust them.
- Clipboard Petitioners: People holding clipboards will ask you to sign a petition or take a survey for a non-existent foundation. While you are signing the clipboard, they will attempt to pickpocket you.
- Dropped Ring: As you're walking, scammers will get your attention to tell you, you dropped your ring. If you tell them it isn’t yours, they insist you keep it. If you do, they expect you to give them money and they do not take “no” for an answer. Sometimes they will also try to convince you the ring is made of gold and sell it to you for an inflated price.
- Accidental Spill: This occurs when you’re walking down the street and a scammer will throw something at you like coffee or sauce. The scammer, trying to act as a helpful local will offer to help you, as they pickpocket you.
- Victim Scam: Don’t let people tug at your heartstrings to get into your pocket. It’s common for scammers to tell you a sad story to take advantage of you.
- Keep your documents locked away
Most hotel rooms have safes where you can store important items such as your passport, cash or cards. If you will be traveling from destination to destination during your trip, invest in a suitcase with a lock, but remember, TSA has master keys. Another option when traveling from destination to destination is to keep your important documents on the front of your body.
- Safely use public wi-fi
While using free Wi-Fi is convenient, you can potentially expose yourself to security risks. Entering bank usernames and passwords on your laptop or mobile device can lead to fraud and theft. Only use private, secure Wi-Fi networks to check banking or credit card information while you’re abroad.
- Lookout for skimming devices
Skimming devices are commonly found at ATMs. Criminals usually place a skimming device with cameras near the keyboard to capture your PIN number as you enter it. Pay extra attention if you use an ATM while you’re abroad.
No matter where you go, there are always fraudsters and thieves. It is important for you to know how to recognize fraud in order to keep your identity safe. If you need a little extra help making sure your money is safe while abroad, check out Central Travel.
If you feel as though someone is trying to get into your account or that you are a victim of fraud, please contact us immediately by phone at (866) 777-7912 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.