Security whilst travelling: How to avoid theft and card skimming

Did you know your card and passport can be skimmed without your knowledge? You could lose thousands in a split second.

Even if you think you’re being safe and have taken all the typical precautions, the methods for taking your data and personal information are becoming more and more advanced.

Follow these travel security tips to keep everything safe and outsmart card skimmers.


1. Get a secure laptop bag

If you are taken your laptop with you while you travel, it’s a good idea to invest in a very secure laptop bag that can handle bumps and knocks.

Some newer bags have RFID anti-theft technology which means that hi-tech devices used to take data will not work if they attempt to scan your computer.

2. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign and don’t use the safe

Hotels around the world pride themselves on having safes in their rooms but the fact of the matter is that at least some of the staff know the combination, and as trustworthy as they may seem, there’s always a chance they could access your stowed stuff.

Put the Do Not Disturb hanger on your door during your stay so hotel staff will leave your room as is. If you do need sheets changes etc, then by all means take it off, but the less people in your room around your belongings, the less of a chance that items will be stolen.

3. Install location software

Services like Prey and even Apple’s own Find My Mac will help you locate a lost or stolen laptop if it does go missing. Accidents happen, and if you leave your computer in the back of a cab, or it never makes it off the plane, or someone steals it, you do have some resources to try and locate it, report it and possibly recover it.

4. Back up everything before you leave.

Our computers can hold our whole lives on them so it’s important to secure them. If you’re worried about laptop theft, be sure to back up all your data before you leave.

5. Call your bank

Before you go overseas, make sure you tell your bank. This is two-pronged: They could think your account had suspicious activity on it and contact you if you hadn’t called, and it’s useful if you are overseas and can legitimise a call if your cards are stolen.

6. Unpack your important cards and documents

It’s tempting to just throw your everyday wallet in your handbag or hand luggage but don’t – be sure to take only the important cards with you and leave things such as your Medicare card and library pass at home. By only carrying 3 or 4 cards, you won’t run the risk of losing a whole wallet then frantically having to replace everything.

7. Be careful on Wi-Fi

When travelling, it is hard to find internet connections other than public ones at hotels, cafes and airports. “This connection is unsecured and others may see your information” is a common warning and the risk applies to anything you type into your keyboard while connected, such as email passwords and website logins.

Most of us can’t avoid using the internet while travelling so you just need to be smart about how you use it. Avoid signing it to your bank account, work emails and other sensitive accounts. If you have no alternative, use incognito browsing to ensure nothing about your browsing session is recorded.

8. Use a dedicated travel e-mail address

If someone gets access to your work or private email account, the amount of damage they could do could be catastrophic. Make a new email address where you store no information and are contacted by no one but family and friends.

9. Use bank ATMs only

Identity thieves have been known to install card readers in an ATM and access your card number and PIN. This happens most often at non-bank, “generic” ATMs (in hotels, convenience stores, etc.), which have less oversight and are therefore more vulnerable than bank ATMs.

10. Dummy wallet

Travel with a dummy wallet, i.e. one you don’t mind being stolen. Put in an expired card, some “filler” cards, and about $10 cash. Use this as a decoy in case someone attempts to steal or demand your wallet.

11. Use RFID anti-scanning pouches

RFID anti-scanning pouches protect passports and other cards that contain a Radio-Frequency-Identification (RFID) chip. They use a special multi-ply laminate material containing a security barrier that provides powerful RFID shielding.

They’re tear resistant, water resistant and durable, and easy to use.


How do you take care whilst travelling?

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