Extracting Money While on the Road

Whether by land and or by sea, when spring rolls around most of us are thinking about vacations and getaway weekends. Once again, technology comes to the rescue by keeping us in touch with friends, family and work via cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), Blackberrys and notebooks.

By Mary E. Shacklett
Published: March, 2007 

It also gives us flexibility and full reign over our purchasing power on the road with credit, debit and ATM cards.

Unfortunately, hackers and technology crooks know this, too.

Credit, debit and ATM card users are fair game to hackers and thieves who no longer have to steal your wallet, your credit cards or your receipts to get your account numbers. They can use technology ranging from video cameras to schemes that stick your card in an ATM machine slot to where you can’t retrieve it — and they do. All of these risks are perils of the road, where plastic cards are indispensable.

A card thief can shoulder surf just by standing next to you in a checkout line and memorizing the personal information on your card. Some thieves even establish video operations that capture information from taping the numerical sequences people key into ATM machines.

Then there is skimming, where thieves steal your credit/debit card account numbers while your card is being processed at a restaurant, store or other business location, using custom designed data collection and storage devices.

The risk of monetary and identity theft doesn’t end here.

More of us are traveling with small mobile devices that can easily slip out of a bag or a pocket. Los Angeles International Airport reports that it receives 400 reports monthly concerning lost mobile phones. On a broader scale, 27.3 million Americans have been victims of some form of identity theft within the past five years, with a significant amount of that theft arising from loss of card-or device-based technology.

Damage control and recovery from an incident of fraud or identity theft can be daunting. Crime perpetrators typically steal personal information for financial gain, and victims are often not immediately aware that a theft has occurred. They are likely to discover large, unauthorized expenses; new credit card accounts, loans and subscriptions to wireless services that allegedly were opened in their name; credit reports that have been damaged because of the fraudulent activity; and checks that were drawn on their accounts.

When the loss of a credit card or a mobile device is discovered, victims can face many hours of closing accounts, canceling credit cards and incurring expenses to clear their names. This does not begin to address the emotional anguish and frustration.

Preventive Measures

Fortunately, there are steps you can take when you are traveling or on vacation to reduce the risks of fraud or identity theft involving today’s technology.

• Of course, it’s necessary to memorize your personal identification number (PIN) and not reveal it to anyone.

• Use ATM machines in open, well-lit areas, and do not be distracted while using your card.

• Make sure you are not being observed when keying your PIN.

• Don’t stop to count money at the ATM, and make sure you take your card after the transaction.

• If your credit card or account numbers are stolen, call the card issuer immediately.

Mobile Devices

• Especially when you are traveling, secure your cell phone, Blackberry, PDA and notebook with unique userids and passwords, and do not share these with anyone.

• Check your mobile devices

for sensitive information; save this sensitive information to disk at home, and eliminate it from the device that you will be taking with you.

• If you must carry sensitive data on your mobile device or notebook, use data encryption.

Mary E. Shacklett is President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology practice specializing in marketing, public relations and product management for technology companies and organizations. Mary is listed in Who’s Who Worldwide and Who’s Who in the Computer Industry. She may be reached at (360) 956-9536 or TWD_Transworld@msn.com.