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Originally published Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 6:35 AM

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Travelers beware: No vacation from scams

Beware of scams in hotels and online, plus tips for keeping your home secure.

MCT News Service


Vacation is supposed to be the time to kick back and relax. Unfortunately, there is never a vacation from scammers who try to take advantage of travelers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns about a couple of common and ongoing scams.

• A call from the hotel’s front desk telling you there is a problem with your credit card and asking you to read them the number over the phone could really be from a scammer. If the hotel really has an issue with your card, staff should ask you to come to the front desk.

• Be aware that a pizza-delivery flyer slipped under your hotel door could be from someone just trying to get your credit-card number. When you call to order, they get your information, and no pizza ever arrives. To be safe, get restaurant food-delivery recommendations from the front desk. Many hotels have lists of restaurants in the directory in your room.

• Be careful when searching for the hotel’s Wi-Fi network. You could come across one with the hotel’s name that is really a scammer trying to access your information. Check with the hotel to make sure you are using the authorized network before you connect.

Wi-Fi safety

Some more Wi-Fi tips:

When using any public Wi-Fi network, check to see that it is fully encrypted so your personal information is kept secure online. Encryption scrambles the information you send over the Internet into a code so others cannot see it.

An encrypted website protects only the information sent to and from that site, the FTC says. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send using that network.

To determine whether a website is encrypted, look for “https” as the start of the Web address. The “s” stands for secure. Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session is not encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable.

Other tips to protect your information when using public Wi-Fi:

• Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’re finished, log out.

• Do not use the same password on different websites.

• Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.

Keeping your home secure

AAA offers these tips:

• Arrange for the post office to hold on to your mail for the duration of your journey (30 days maximum).

• Piles of unclaimed newspapers can tip off would-be burglars that your home is vacant. Call to suspend delivery, or to have your newspapers donated to local schools.

• Valuables — Put them in a safe-deposit box or hide them in a safe location.

• Lights — Purchase an automatic timer so your home will appear occupied.

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About Travel Wise

Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. The column covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. It runs each Sunday in the Travel section.

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