4 Tips To Not Getting Ripped Off While On Vacation

Going on vacation is supposed to be a way to soothe your nerves and forget about the worries of the world. But, in addition to all the hassles of travel, vacations are a prime opportunity for you to be taken advantage of, And don’t forget that empty house back home that’s now a target for thieves.

This is why money maven Jean Chatzky came up with this list of four things you must do to protect yourself and your temporarily vacated home.

1. Secure Your House
Don’t tip off burglars that you’re away from home. Suspend newspaper and mail delivery; get a timer for your lights; mow the lawn and trim the hedges before you leave.

2. Don’t Spread the News
There’s no need to go telling everyone on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and everywhere else that you’re going to be away in Tahiti for a week.

3. Secure Your Wallet
Only bring the ID and cards you will need for that trip. If you’re not traveling internationally, don’t bring your passport.

4. Use Wi-Fi Carefully
Be wary of free Wi-Fi connections in airports, coffee shops and hotels. Don’t look at any sites — bank accounts, credit cards — that would potentially expose your most vital financial info to scammers.

Now is where you tell us what’s good, bad and missing about this list. So… fire away!

Jean Chatzky: 4 things you MUST do to avoid getting ripped off while traveling [NY Daily News]


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  1. rbleader says:

    WiFi one is critical. Although bank sites usually have encrypted connections, email services sometimes don’t have them. And that’s a good start for any identity thieves.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      Better yet, leave the laptop at home. You’re on vacation. You’re just wasting money if you come back without a tan.

      • colorisnteverything says:

        I guess then no vacation on earth is worth it for myself and other lobster people…

    • teh says:

      Alternatively, you can use a VPN to encrypt your packets.

    • Razor512 says:

      SSL is no longer secured. it is easy to spot the starting and confirmation of a SSL session.

      There many tools out there that will allow you to perform a sidejacking attack which means you copy the session files of the target (you wont get their password). When sidejacking you will have full access to everything they have access to with the session. During that time, you can make changes or schedule payments or many other things)

      Since many people often have a email client or some program or IM program running that auto signs in to their email accounts. a common attack is to do a deauth attack which knocks them off line for a few seconds, then they sniff the traffic and get their email session (these sessions don’t expire quickly) they then wait for them to log into an account with some personal info, and then make changes and delete any incoming emails that will tip the user off) and since many email sessions can last weeks in some cases, a attacker can maintain access to account for a long period of time .

  2. Dutchess says:

    Another one I always follow is becareful which ATMs you use. I try an only use ATM machines attached to bank locations (not the mini ATM machines in supermarkets and hotels) and always check for skimming devices.

    Traveller’s Cheques are practically worthless and can only be cashed at banks anymore (nobody wants to accept them). They’re subject to high fees for cashing them at the bank, so the last thing you want is your ATM card to be hacked and account drained while on vacation.

    • AllanG54 says:

      I have never had a problem with travelers checks and I use them for major purchases all over the Caribbean. In Europe I had no problem exchanging them for local currency either.

      • Dutchess says:

        Allan, yes you can bring them to the local exchange booths but you will get charged the highest fees and worst exchange rates. I have found I generally get the best rate when I use an ATM to withdrawl money. My bank charges me a flat $5 fee and has relationships with major banks in Germany France and Spain and I don’t get charged when I use those ATMs.

  3. Sian says:

    See that big triangle in low orbit? Any funny business and this rock gets melted.


  4. tungstencoil says:


    Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on things.

    Leave a light on, preferably one more toward the inner house that doesn’t scream LIGHT IS ON BECAUSE NO ONE IS HOME, but more “someone is reading in the lounge”.

    Make a copy of things like your driver license, passport, credit card #s, and bank phone #s. Leave a copy at home and take one with you.

    • dreamfish says:

      Upload a image of important documents to your email account so you can theoretically access them anywhere (assuming you can access your email via the web, like gmail).

  5. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    Question about number one, suspending mail and newspaper delivery: Doesn’t that go against number two, don’t spread the news? I’m not assuming that all postal employees and newspaper delivery people are dishonest, but surely some of them are.

    Wouldn’t it be better to have a trusted neighbor take in all your deliveries on a daily basis?

    • Hobz says:

      I think the “suspend” was to keep things like news papers and mail from piling up. But if you have a neighbor, friend or family you trust, that would seem to be a good alternative.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I have often wondered who tipped off the bad guys that I was leaving town…the newspaper carrier or the taxi driver. Of course, they could have seen me getting into a cab with luggage…

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      I suppose yes it tips off the newspaper guy, but that is probably better then tipping off everyone that drives by with a stack of 4 unread newspapers.

  6. GyroMight says:

    On a slightly different note, is there a list somewhere of tips for not getting ripped off in Germany while on vacation for two weeks?

    That’s a list I need.

    • teh says:

      As an American living here in Deutschland, I’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have too much trouble. With very few exceptions, everything is safe and you are very unlikely to get mugged or otherwise be afraid, even in the wee hours of the night. Yes, things are expensive here and you’ll have the best luck using cash (almost no one uses a credit card, and most places don’t accept them), but ATMs (Geldautomat) are everywhere. If you want a more authentic experience, look for a Gästezimmer (guest room) instead of a proper hotel.

      Anyway, don’t be afraid to ask people for help — most people are friendly and speak English.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Take money out, as the other poster said. Have fun! Germany was awesome. Most people speak good English and most of those I met were very friendly to Americans. A few of my (German) friend’s friends wanted to practice their English with me often, so they took me places and bought me drinks. And, if you get invited to a birthday, go! The birthday boy or girl has to buy YOU drinks!

    • Dutchess says:

      Gyro not sure who you bank with but check to see if they have ATM agreements with any banks in Germany. I have BofA (I Know, but they’ve been good to me) and I can use and Deutchebank ATM without a charge.

      Where are you going in Germany?

  7. It'sRexManningDay! says:

    Ugh…my parents just went through this. The tip-off to the thieves? The camper they use (to go camping in) leaves the driveway when they go away. Shocker–they take their camper with them to go camping. I’m not sure how they could have avoided tipping off the baddies in this instance.

    • GyroMight says:

      The only way I could think of to avoid something like this is what my family and friends family tend to do. Is get someone to stay in your house for you. I’ve house sat multiple times, they would stock the fridge and still pay me cash to just to live in their house for the week their gone. This could be that they needed someone to take care of their pets but would work even if there were no pets.

    • Sarcastico says:

      Maybe they should look into parking the camper at a storage facility when not in use. While this will cost them, it will no longer be a tip off that no one is home when it’s gone. I like the idea of getting a house sitter or having the neighbors keep an eye on the place including parking their cars in the driveway, getting mail and other deliveries.

    • Oregon says:

      Your parents could ask a friend that has the room to allow them to park their camper there for a few nights every month. This way they are home but the campers gone on occasion with no pattern of camper gone – no one home for someone to track.

  8. AppleAlex says:

    I made the mistake of using open Wi-Fi in Mexico to sign into pretty much everything. The only thing I didn’t log into was my iTunes account. Although I saw no indication of anything of minge having gotten hacked, I changed my passwords when I got back

  9. Razor512 says:

    If an emergency happens and you need to use public wifi, Make sure you have a VPN

    (leave your PC on at home and follow these instructions http://www.onecomputerguy.com/networking/xp_vpn_server.htm )

    When away, use your VPN connection when possible, all traffic leaving your computer will be encrypted right up to your home computer, This will prevent scammers from sniffing your traffic as they will only see pseudo random noise.

    When going on vacation, turn off your wifi at home unless your computer needs it, then make sure you are at least using WPA 2 and AES encryption for your wifi security, and make sure the password is longer than 13 characters (after 13, brute forcing will take years on current systems)

  10. brinkman says:

    5. Don’t go to Bangkok.

  11. keith4298 says:

    WiFi camera with motion detection and recording to dropbox – if anyone moves in my house I get an instant alert and a photo to send the police. Total cost $85.

    • Vivienne says:


      Honestly, I have been thinking seriously about doing for an all-the-time thing. My neighborhood is pretty good for the most part, but I do live next door to a church :(

  12. areaman says:

    The four tips seem pretty solid.

    I like to ask one of my unemployed friends to house sit for me.

    It’s like a more comfortable version of Starbucks (not sure why but many homeless and unemployed people hang out at Starbucks around me (maybe it’s because some of these people are double counted???)).

    I have free wifi, free food, reading material, free coffee (even though I don’t drink it I keep it around in case friends want some), and he or she doesn’t have to share the bathroom with homeless people. Also homeless people hang out in the park across street and/or the Starbucks and 7/11 near my place.

    AND at least one of my unemployed friends is living with his parents. So it’s a big score if he can just have his own place for a weekend or a couple of weeks.

  13. areaman says:

    One more thing… stay away from anything that combines going on a cruise with Florida.

    • Dutchess says:

      On the same note:

      5. Never buy ART or go to the Art Auctions on a cruise ship. What a ripp off.

  14. MaxPower says:

    5. Dress as a storm trooper
    6. Set phasers to stun

  15. Lollerface says:

    I’m on the fence about putting a hold on my mail. I’d be more likely to have a family member or trusted neighbor pick it up. You’re tipping off the postal employees with the time frame your home will be vacant. When I was a kid my home was burglarized and it turned out a floater carrier was involved and other homes along routes he covered had also been burglarized.

  16. lyllydd says:

    Er, you forgot the obvious. Secure your purse/bag.
    1. Ladies, use a purse that can be closed at the top. Don’t throw your wallet into an open tote bag. Too easy to pickpocket.
    2. No matter how tired your are at the end of your theme park trip, don’t throw all your money, cameras, the wife’s purse, etc into one bag. You will forget and leave it on the bus. I worked for a travel company one summer in FL, and yes, one family did this. They were shocked, just SHOCKED when they went back to the bus 5 minutes later to find that their bag was gone, and so was the driver.