International Card Scams Are Real – Here’s How to Keep Your Cards Safe

That much-awaited overseas trip of yours is around the corner, and you are getting ready to have the time of your life. The trip will be a lot of fun for sure, but at the same time, there are possible hazards that might throw a wrench in the works.

Scammers are on the prowl both on and offline, looking to steal your card data and your money. The danger is all the more prevalent in a foreign country, where compensation might be hard to come by due to operational complications.

It’s better to follow the age-old adage, “prevention is better than the cure.” Take precautions beforehand so that you don’t fall victim to card fraud and end up high-and-dry while vacationing abroad.

Use Your Debit Cards Less

A debit card uses the money that’s already in your account. Debit card fraud will directly compromise your funds, and you won’t be able to recover the money until the bank completes its investigation.

If you are using a credit card, it’s the issuer’s money. If you report unauthorized usage of the card to the bank within the stipulated time, then your liability will stand protected.

It’s better if you limit your debit card usage to withdrawing cash from ATMs. Also make sure that the ATMs are attached to branches and not standalone machines. For making purchases, either use cash or your credit card.

Avoid Using Open Networks

Public Wi-Fi networks don’t require a password for access. While this is very convenient, it increases your risks of having your data stolen. Computers in the network can easily intercept and steal data, especially from websites that are not secure.

Use a public network to download free movies or music, but when it comes to making online purchases or payments with your card, do so from a protected place and via an encrypted network.

Opt for an RFID-blocker Travel Wallet

Hi-tech radio frequency identification skimmers can steal digital information from your credit card. Scammers using these devices can gently run them over the wallet in your pocket and steal your information. Invest in a wallet that has anti-RFID technology, and keep this wallet in your waistband or travel pouch. This way, your wallet will be safe from miscreants.

Be Aware at ATMs

ATM fraud is among the most common scams that thieves use to rob travelers. So, take proper precautions when it comes to using ATMs, especially abroad. Do not write your ATM PIN anywhere on your card. You are making things very easy for the scammers. If you feel you might forget the PIN, save it on your mobile phone by using code words that only you can understand.

Be wary of the person behind you peering over your shoulder while you enter your PIN. It might be a case of plain curiosity, but why take the chance? Cover the keypad with your hands while you type in your PIN.

Inspect the ATM thoroughly before inserting your card. If the machine looks disfigured or out of shape in any way, then there might be foul play at work. In all probability, scammers have placed a skimming device somewhere in the machine that will capture your ATM PIN. If you suspect anything is amiss, avoid using that ATM altogether.

If your card gets stuck in the ATM, don’t keep re-entering your PIN. You might be inviting trouble, as entering your PIN once again could transfer all of your card data to the scammers. Remain at the ATM and ask for a nearby security guard to assist you. If you are traveling with a companion, ask them to remain there while you enter the bank branch and get assistance. In extreme cases, you might not have any option left but to block your card.

Think Twice Before Trusting Strangers

If you are having issues with an ATM abroad and someone comes up with an offer of help, that person might be just a good Samaritan. But, to be on the safe side, politely decline the offer as you have no way to know their intentions.

That’s because, quite often scammers pose as helping hands and distract you with the ultimate goal of robbing you. That’s why you need to also be careful about a group of people gathered near an ATM. Wait for a while outside the ATM until the crowd thins out.

Carry Some Cash with You

Don’t depend entirely on your cards for making transactions while you are abroad. While cards are convenient, they are also susceptible to digital fraud. Keep some cash in the local currency or U.S. dollars with you. This will mean less trips to the ATM, and protecting your cards from possible fraud. Keep your cash and cards separately so that if one is stolen, the other remains as a backup.

Contact Your Bank about Card Thefts

Despite taking the best precautions, you might not be able to prevent the theft or misuse of your debit/credit card. But what you can do is prevent further abuse of the card. The moment you realize that the card has been stolen, contact your bank or card company and block the card. That way, the thieves won’t be able to inflict any serious damage.

Caution is the key. Be very careful with your card usage while abroad, and always have a travel insurance policy in place as an added measure of protection. By being cautious, you can be assured to a large extent that your card’s safety is not being compromised.

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