Recently, our Singapore Travel Blog came to know about a guy from Alvin’s old Muay Thai Class that has unfortunately been a victim of credit card fraud / identity theft while he was abroad and had his life savings wiped out of his account when he was away.
This was his post on Facebook:
The truth is that no matter how much we hope it never ever happens to us, as we move towards the digital era, debit / credit card frauds are a very REAL threat and this is made much worse when we travel.
Here is a list based on our own travel blog experience & reader’s contribution on 9 ways to counter identity theft & debit / credit card fraud.
1. Always enable 2 step verification
Banks has over the years too realized the need to guard against credit card fraud and identity theft. One of their first line of defense was the introduction to the 2 steps verification process when purchasing things online. This can be in the form of a personal token or an SMS with a code for you to do a final approval before the transaction goes through. If you aren’t already using this service, you really should and/or request for your bank to have one.
2. Enable SMS notifications
While the 2 step verification helps to prevent identity theft and frauds from online purchases, enabling SMS notifications (such that you recieve an SMS from the bank directly whenever someone, including yourself, draws/spends using your credit card), allows you to stop the purchase at it’s roots. For example, if you are having a dinner at a restaurant and receives an SMS notification about someone spending $1000 at a Prada shop and you know it isnt done by you, you can immediately call your bank and stop the transaction from even going through.
3. Choosing the right person for your Credit Card SMS notifications when you are traveling
If like the above mentioned case, you are looking to purchase a separate local SIM card when you are abroad, do keep your Credit Card SMS notifications in mind when deciding whose phone should you change for the local sim card.
For example, if you are traveling with your partner and your partner brought alone his credit card. When you guys purchase a local sim card, it’s probably best for you to take out your sim card from your phone and replace it with the local sim card instead of using your partner’s. This would allow your partner to still receive his credit card SMS notifications if theres a need.
4. Prevent overseas usage for your credit cards & debit cards
Most banks allow you to disable overseas withdrawal/usage of your cards. This prevents someone from another country attempting to steal your identity.
5. Inform your bank about your overseas activity
When you do need to head overseas, let your bank know in advanced and have them activate the ability to spend/withdraw only in that certain amount of days that you are away.
Certain banks would also prob more in depth and ask you which country exactly you are heading to, so they can flag any malicious activity if the withdrawal is done on a separate country.
6. Use Credit Cards / Debit Cards as a last resort
Although bringing your cards along would probably make you feel safer, it’s best to avoid using them unless it’s absolutely necessary. We would recommend estimating and changing enough currency prior to the trip itself and see your credit card / debit card more of a last resort basis, when you run out of money.
7. When given a choice, choose Credit > Debit
When given a choice to make payment i.e online, food etc, try to use your credit card over your debit card. Reason being that if there is a credit card fraud, funds are, as per it’s name, on credit. The debit card however, allows for direct access into your bank and any withdrawal/spending is immediate. In the worse case where your information is stolen, credit cards allow you to call the bank and prevent the transaction before it happens.
Another personal tip our Travel blog use when deciding which Credit Card to use in situations such as purchasing stuff online etc, is that we try to always use the one with the closes expiration date. As once the information expires, any information/numbers associated with the card would too be rendered useless.
8. Setting a daily withdrawal limit
A person attempting identity theft would most likely try to withdraw / spend as much of your money as he can. Setting a limit restricts him/her to who much they can draw within a given time frame. For example, if like the above case, where you are away for 5 days, a $20 limit would only restrict the thief to just spending no more than $100. But of course, your daily withdrawal limit should not hinder your daily life in drawing cash.
You can instead however choose to lower your withdrawal limit during the days you are traveling and bump it back up to a more realistic amount when you are back.
9. Use a RFID-blocking wallet
If you have never heard of an electronic pickpocket that can steal your credit card information even without ever getting hold of your card, this 4 mins video would have your jaw dropping.
These electronic pickpockets are able to steal your credit card information, name, expiration date, everything you need to purchase stuff with your credit card, and all without you ever knowing it.
Purchase an RFID blocking wallet and use it when you are overseas to prevent that from happening. The thing is just because it doesnt happen in your country, it doesn’t mean someone in the country you are visiting wouldn’t.
Lastly, if you suspect you are a victim of malicious activity and your funds have been illegally/unlawfully withdrawn/spent, always be quick to act and notify your bank immediately. This would allow for them to do quick actions and hopefully be able to return to you your hard earned money.
Share this article with your friends and family and also let us know in the comments below if there are any tips we left out.
We plan to constantly update this post and add more any new ideas you guys might have.