What You Need To Know About Fraud And Cyber Security In Summer

It’s been a long time coming but the summer is here again and for thousands of us that means a fortnight in the sun, or, for the less lucky, few days in a rainy caravan park or unsanitary holiday camp.

But from the very best to the outstandingly mediocre, there’s something which all holiday destinations have in common: free wifi.

Who doesn’t love free wifi? You can keep up with you email, if you have a smart home you can keep tabs on what’s happening indoors and out, and you can look up all the local excursions, places of interest, restaurant and tourist attraction reviews.

All Fine And Dandy, Or So It Seems

The first rule of the hospitality industry is ‘anticipate a guest’s needs and fulfil them before they realise that’s what they want’ and for all of us now these days that means having wifi you can connect to without the hassle of finding the right network or faffing with passwords. But that in itself is problematic.

Most people leaving their troubles back at home and enjoying a few days’ relaxation won’t even be aware that their online security could be cripplingly compromised when they start using the hotel’s free wifi. How would they know that simply logging on and booking a car or paying for a sightseeing tour could mean that criminals now have access to their credit card details?

Cyber security is hard to apply to humans, especially when most don’t know that they’re compromising themselves just by logging on. People trust their hotel and they’re perfectly used to using the internet to buy things, so why shouldn’t they behave in exactly the same way they would while at home when on holiday?

Unsecured Networks Are A Fraudster’s Paradise

The truth is unfortunately rather simple. If anyone can use the hotel’s wifi that includes any number cybercriminals who can use the unsecured network to gather a range of different details from each person logging on throughout the season. They’re unlikely to use the details themselves as detection would be too easy, rather they will sell the details on to credit card fraudsterswho will use the cards to buy goods and services, both legal and illegal, until the crime is detected and then move on. Each credit card number and security code they buy costs a few pounds at the most but can afford purchases of thousands of pounds depending on the cardholder’s credit limit.

We’re often singing the praises of Smart Home Security devices such as burglar alarms and CCTV since you can keep a close eye on your home from abroad so long as you have internet access and that remains the case. The security issue for holiday makers comes when they pass confidential details through an unsecured network which can be accessed by anybody.

Our Anti-Fraud Prescription Is An Encryption Subscription

The simplest way to protect yourself is not to use the internet to pass on your details. If you’re booking excursions then do it by phone, and if you absolutely must make purchases online while you’re in your hotel, use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN works by encrypting your data before it leaves your computer and then uses a series of remote host servers, which means that nobody but you and your target destination has any way of finding and unscrambling your details.

A VPN is an inexpensive way to secure your phone, tablet or laptop and it’s just as useful at home as it is abroad. Use them when you’re shopping at the coffee shop or bar and you will protect yourself from any domestic snoopers too. It may sound like scare-mongering, but credit card fraud and card cloning is a multibillion pound criminal industry which nobody is taking anywhere near as seriously as they should. And because nobody is talking about it nobody is sharing information on how to avoid it.

The High Cost Of Online Fraud Is Passed Back To All Of Us

Which is strange because fraud is very expensive. For every dollar lost to fraud it costs the banks $2.92, almost three times as much as the customer originally lost. And when you consider that fraud cost consumers $31.26 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $32.82 billion in 2019 multiplying that by 2.92 per dollar means banks will lose $95.83 billion all told. This cost comes in the form of returned money to victims of card fraud plus interest, fees, legal costs, and R&D into more ways to defeat the fraudsters. And of course, when we say ‘cost the banks’ what we really mean is that it will cost their insurance companies, and they, along with the banks will ultimately pass the costs back to us, the bank and insurance customers.

Do your part in helping keep these costs down for all of us by not being a victim of fraud!

Keep your credit card and personal details safe by never divulging them anywhere that isn’t secured.

Don’t read out your details over the phone in public

Don’t keep your cards and phone in the same holder. Despite being convenient it gives anyone who gets a hold of it access to so much data, and you’re stuck without phone or money in an emergency.

And if you’re in any doubt the website you’re buying from is at all dodgy, just don’t!

Fraudsters try to get your details, not only your credit card details but access to your computer and online banking details in many ways, including fake websites which look official, calling and claiming to be a representative of a trusted British institution such as BT or HMRC, or impersonating the police and needing your help in an investigation. In all cases, if it doesn’t feel right STOP! Hang up the phone or close the page you’re on. Nobody who is genuinely calling from said organisation will ask you for your details except your name, address and a phone PIN (not your cash machine PIN), nor will they ask to access your computer, for card details or for you to move money out of your account or to withdraw money. In any of these incidences hang up and call the police, and if you think it’s too late because you have followed their instructions to the letter, again, call the police and change all of your passwords, log-in details and PINs immediately.