Hands off! Avoiding Credit Card Theft Abroad

Hands off! Avoiding Credit Card Theft Abroad, Flickr: andresruedaWhenever I see someone blogging, tweeting or just shouting from the rooftops about fraudulent charges to their credit card while traveling abroad, I can’t help but wonder how that even happens. Scammers of the world, please don’t come target me now. While none of us are immune, I have avoided credit card troubles abroad in all of my years of travel by following these key tips.  You can avoid the headache of dealing with fraudulent charges from a café seat in Rome and rather just enjoy that perch, worry-free that no one has their hands on your money.

Pay restaurants in cash: A friend’s parents gave their credit card to a restaurant in Italy and promptly received their card back. A few hours later, fraudulent charges started popping up from the very town of that last supper. Restaurants abroad or at home frequently take your credit card out of sight to charge your card for the meal. Sadly, many are also con artists, scribbling down your digits and security codes to make a new credit card in their name. I avoid this vulnerability by only paying restaurants in cash.

Use Only Credit Cards With Good International Communication:
I read an account of a traveler who had fraudulent charges to his debit card. His bank was less than helpful, costing him a fortune in calls about the issue. The problem wasn’t resolved for days. If you are traveling throughout foreign lands, you might want to only use a credit card with stellar international help. If your credit card company prides itself on helping you while you travel, chances are they have their bases covered. For example, I used my credit card with no international fees while in Budapest. It was declined. I called about the problem and within two minutes, I had a person telling me all was fine, that it was the vendor’s old machine. Having the peace of mind and responses quickly is necessary while travel for your time is limited and those long distance phone call don’t grow on trees.

Utilize Pre-Paid Travel Booking Sites: Not to toot OneTravel’s horn here, but if you book your hotel with a site like OneTravel, you are most likely pre-paying for the hotel. The hotel doesn’t get your credit card information. When I had to cancel a hotel in Romania, I was shocked to learn another hotel booking site sends an email to the hotel with all of my credit card information in plain sight, no coding or anything. This paper could sit in an office somewhere, exposed to who knows. If you pre-pay for your hotels through booking sites from trusted sources, the information is likely coded to protect you and you never give up your card to the hotel.

Select Your ATM Wisely: After traveling around Eastern Europe, I had read horror stories about ATMs being rigged to skim cards. Skimming credit cards at ATMs is a serious problem around the world. Rather than going for the first ATM you see, make sure it is a secure one. Look for anything out of the ordinary. ATMs not in banks can be less secure. I try to use ATMs as little as possible when abroad. When I do, I go for ones where you need a card to get into the ATM and/or bank.

How have you avoided fraudulent charges while traveling abroad?
 
 
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photo: andresrueda
 

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