by Christopher Elliott
May 15, 2016
Summer travelers worry about terrorism and Zika and unrest, but maybe they should look a little closer for the real threat.
Maybe they should look in a mirror.
“Travelers leave their laptop open and unlocked while they go to the bar or bathroom,” says security strategist Ben Johnson. “They read off credit card and passport numbers over the phone, in public.”
A survey by Experian revealed nearly one in five travelers lost sensitive information on the road, and 30% said they experienced identity theft while traveling or know someone who has. It gets worse if you cross a border. International travelers are 1 1/2 times more likely to become victims of identity theft than domestic travelers, a LifeLock study found.
The consequences of their carelessness can be immediate and catastrophic. Travelers are quick to blame everyone but themselves for data loss or ID theft. The app had a security flaw! The Wi-Fi network wasn’t secure! There were strangers overhearing my conversation in the hotel lobby! But this summer, the best way to stay safe lies within.
What to do? Easy. Just observe your fellow travelers and learn from their mistakes.
Johnson, a former NSA employee who co-founded the security consulting firm Carbon Black, has seen travelers carelessly log onto a wireless network that may not have been the hotel’s official one (yes, they let him watch). He’s even seen hotel guests leave electronics, such as laptops and USB keys, in their room, leaving their most sensitive information vulnerable to theft.
Patti Reddi witnessed some pretty outrageous things, too. Like posting a photo of your boarding pass on social media. Duh. “Your boarding pass contains sensitive information like your frequent-flier number, record locator and more,” says Reddi, who writes a travel blog. Plus, there’s no better way of tipping off a thief that you’re not home than with a confirmed boarding pass that says, “I’m away.”
The lack of attention can hurt you. Jaclyn Goldman met a man at a hotel bar who was sobbing uncontrollably. What happened? Goldman, a sales executive, says the man had given two women his last name and room number.