Admittedly this is a “depressing” topic– and so early for my blog!? But the reality is everywhere, not just for travelers, and that is: fraudulent credit card abuse.
I’ve felt a bit sheltered from aggressive attack only because of my unusual name – but that is a false safety net. Names are just names and don’t belong to any one person, and provide little, if any, shelter.
Here’s my story – and it isn’t sad, because I have the eagle eye when it comes to bank statements AND because credit card companies are equally on alert, when you are.
First, was a Visa card issued by Chase. My statement probably looks like many others: Fred Meyer, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods (a guilty, and a once convenient, pleasure), Safeway, Rose & Thistle, Rite Aid, Zappos (OK, another “guilty” one). In a glance, everything lines up, but upon closer evaluation I noticed ONE of the Fred Meyer purchases was in Troutdale. And, what, the Safeway. . . this one is in Tualatin??
“WAIT, those locations aren’t the merchants I frequent??!!
Second, was a GIFT CARD I received as a going away gift; the perfect gift for a person on the road. When I went to use it the third time, it was all used up.
“Wow, that went fast. . . I know we’re loaded down, but we’ve
only fueled up twice, something’s up??”
No, I wasn’t given a partially used-up gift card. . . it was another credit card breach! A Walmart in Southern California?!
During my career, I’d hear of these breaches often – but was never a target. Now a target, I plan to beef up a few things. Here is where I’m starting: I have downloaded an app called My LastPass. This app creates extremely strong passwords and holds it in a “vault” – you launch any of your sites from LastPass, and LastPass takes it from there, auto-populating username, password and you’re running. Additionally they provide document storage and important “notes” – such as the combination to our storage SmartBox.
Since my computer will be with me everywhere I go – if my computer goes missing, I do not want my browser remembering my passwords, and welcoming the thief in!
The other tool is purchasing a VPN, a virtual private network. This is a way to use public wifi as though it’s a personal and private network. A VPN will encrypt my data and routes it through remote servers, keeping my banking, or other activity private. The service I went with is Hide My Ass – lovely name, huh?
After I spend some time with these additional security measures, and as I learn more – I will report back! In the meantime, if you’ve taken extra security measures, I’d love to hear them, or maybe you have a “I’ve been there!” story? We can learn from each other!