Summertime, Summertime, Summer-Summer Summertime: Having a safe (summer) vacation
This month our contribution was prepared by Kathy Macdonald, who is a Security Consultant, Retired Police Officer, and a current ACCPA Board Member.
As this article points out, summer time is a time to “get away from it all.” Unfortunately, no matter where you might go, there is no vacation spot that is 100% safe from potential criminal activities. For example, as exotic and interesting as some destinations might be, they all carry a certain risk. South Africa which hosted the 2010 World Cup Football/soccer championships is ranked by many sources as one of the most violent countries. It is ranked first in the world for assaults and second for the number of murders. Therefore, with a little awareness about the crime prevention measures that you can incorporate into your daily routine, you can reduce your risk of ‘spoiling’ what should be a ‘great’ time.
The beginning of summer brings a break from school, hot weather, possible travel and the opportunity to take some well-deserved holidays. Summertime can be a magical time of the year for the entire family and/or loved ones. Please consider a few of these simple precautions to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of crime over the upcoming summer holidays.
Leaving your home while on holidays?
Have a friend or neighbour visit your home to check on things, mow your lawn, and pick-up your mail. Better yet, why not cancel your mail delivery all together while you are away. Remember, it’s not wise to advertise your vacation plans, in advance, in social media, or post holiday photos on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Turn off the ‘Location Services’ on your camera to ensure that you are not publicizing your geographical location when you do post your holiday photos to the Internet.
Taking a driving holiday?
Always wear a seatbelt and have properly installed car seats for your children. Advise your friends or family of your travel route and the approximate times you plan to arrive at your destination. Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave an animal in the car alone, even for a short time. Stick to well-travelled roads whenever possible and take a charged cell phone in case of emergencies. If you need to use your GPS or your cell phone while you are driving, pull over to the side of the road or to a texting rest area when it’s safe so as not to engage in distracted driving.
Protecting your personal identifying information while on holidays.
Before you leave home, make copies of your current passport, birth certificate and any other important identification and leave these copies with someone at home, or a trusted friend or family member. Slim down your wallet and take only the necessary identification needed for the trip. Some hotels require your passport overnight; try to give them a certified copy instead of your original passport. If you are traveling internationally record the contact information for the closest Canadian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
What about your credit card and debit card?
When traveling contact your credit card company to set up a spending alert. You can advise them where you are traveling and how long you will be away. Perhaps arrange for a low credit limit temporary credit card. Try not to carry large amounts of cash and be wary of private ATM machines on side streets, hotel lobbies, strip bars and food courts. These machines can be targeted by organized crime for skimming, money laundering, and robbery. Always cover the keypad while entering your PIN information, use mainstream commercial banks whenever possible and obtain a transaction record to help monitor and detect unauthorized transactions. Report suspicious activity promptly to your bank.
An example of a street ATM machine that is tucked behind a wall and not very well maintained. Photo by Kathy Macdonald June 2014
Should you worry about theft theft and pickpocketers?
Yes, crowded places and popular tourist destinations tend to be common locations for pickpocketing and distraction theft. Watch for deliberate distractions, keep a safe distance from people and watch your mobile devices, laptop computers and luggage in places like airports, hotel lobbies, and food courts. Carry your camera and wallet in a safe place in front of you rather than in a backpack. Maintain a higher sense of security awareness in congested locations. Don’t pick up hitchhikers or accept rides from strangers.
What if you get sick while on holidays?
Be aware of health risks in certain countries. Research government and travel websites regarding the area you are traveling in case of health concerns and follow general precautions relating to immunization and preventive medication against insects, and local disease outbreaks.
Are you safe in a hotel?
Check your stored luggage at the claim desk whenever possible and avoid leaving luggage unattended for any length of time. Look for the emergency exit closest to your hotel room and keep shoes, keys, wallet, passport in the same location for easy exit in case of fire or alarms. Ask the concierge about safe locations to go jogging, swimming, walking, and hiking. If you are traveling alone advise the hotel of your expected return time. Tell your kids to verify visitors to the room before they open the hotel door and use the door chain or the secondary door lock when you are inside your hotel room.
What about my computer and mobile device security while traveling?
People are reliant on access to the Internet while traveling but be wary of free public Wi-Fi. These locations are typically unencrypted and even if they are encrypted, they may compromise the security of your social networking, email, or financial accounts. Also, just because you pay an access fee to a Wi-Fi network it doesn’t mean that the network is secure. Turn off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it to prevent from automatically connecting to networks and this will also extend your device’s battery life. Sign out of your website accounts after accessing them and change your passwords on a regular basis. Enable the settings on your mobile device to wipe the data if someone tries to access it after several unsuccessful attempts. Enable self-location and anti-theft software. Whenver possible keep the device with you, if not possible, remove the battery, memory and SIM card and keep these separate from the device. Avoid charging your device using a USB of an unknown or untrusted source and keep your antivirus, firewall and all software enabled and up to date. Use lost phone apps and if your device is lost or stolen or there’s been a security breach, quickly and remotely perform a factory reset from any computer connected to the Internet. This will wipe out all of the device’s data and lock it indefinitely.