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Travel money tips: Keep your credit card secure while traveling

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You might be on vacation, but don't let down your guard. Scammers may be out to nab your credit card number
Vacation do's and don'ts: Do check for secure Internet connections, don't call the number on the flier

Vacation. It's supposed to be a time to kick back and relax, but if you're traveling, there can be a lot of stress, from finding the best deal when making the hotel reservations to getting to and waiting at the airport and even checking into your hotel.

Unfortunately, there is never a vacation from scammers, who like to take advantage of travelers.

The Federal Trade Commission reminds us about a couple of common and ongoing scams.

A call from the hotel's front desk tells you there is a problem with your credit card and asks you to read the number to the desk clerk. Don't do it. It's probably a scammer. If the hotel really has an issue with your card, you probably would be summoned to the front desk.

That's not the only way the bad guys get your credit card number. You know that pizza delivery flier that's slipped under your hotel door? Don't place that order. When you call to order, you're asked for your information, and no pizza ever arrives.

To be safe, get recommendations from the front desk. Many hotels have lists of restaurants in the directory in your room too. Or consult that app on your smartphone.

Be careful when searching for the hotel's Wi-Fi network. You may see a Wi-Fi site that looks like your hotel's name, but it might be a scammer trying to access your information.

Best prevention: Check with the hotel to make sure you are using the authorized network before you connect.

In fact, when using any public Wi-Fi network, whether it's at the hotel, at the airport or in a cafe, check to see that it is fully encrypted so that your personal information is kept secure online. (Encryption scrambles the information you send over the Internet into a code so that others cannot see it.)

An encrypted website protects only the information you send to and from that site, the FTC says. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send using that network.

To determine whether a website is encrypted, look for "https" as the start of the Web address. The "s" stands for "secure." Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session is not encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable.

Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.

Other tips to protect your information when using public Wi-Fi:

• Don't stay signed in to accounts when you're not using them. When you're finished, log out.

• Do not use the same password on different websites. Vary it.

• If a warning pops up on a Web browser saying that a website is fraudulent or contains malicious programs, pay attention to that and close it.

• Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn't automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.

And just in case you don't have enough to worry about, AAA offers some tips for keeping your house secure:

• Put your valuables in a safe deposit box or hide them in a safe location. That safe location is not your sock drawer.

• Use an automatic timer on your lights so your home will appear occupied. Have them come on or off at unusual times.

• Make sure your mail and newspapers aren't left to pile up.

And finally, don't forget to call your credit card companies to let them know you'll be using your cards away from home. Sometimes a card company will see charges on your card in a different place and freeze your account.

Nothing worse than being out in the cold on vacation.

travel@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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