Beach towel? Sunscreen? Anti-scam spray? Cybersecurity expert alerts vacationers to spring break scams

Photo (c) Jamie Grill - Getty Images

Stay off of social media? Yes, if you don’t want anyone to know you’re not home.

If you’re headed out for spring break, you’ll likely have some unwelcome company. From its perch, online security provider NordVPN says that from booking platforms to apps, holiday scammers have their suitcases packed and ready to make as many vacationers' lives as miserable as possible.

Marijus Briedis, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, laid out everything a spring breaker needs to protect themselves and ensure a scam-free time.

Briedis’ first warning starts with anyone who may still be searching for deals on accommodations, airfares, etc. 

“Most of us will have used booking platforms or comparison sites to find our perfect break, but how do you know you’re getting the best price for your vacation?” he asked.

“As well as the time of year, your location and tracking data can also play a role in the type and price of deals you are offered by travel companies. If you are visiting a website you have used before, clear your cookies beforehand and hide your location through your browser’s ‘incognito’ mode to see if it gives you access to better offers.”

While it may be a bit of shameless self-promotion, Briedis did offer one unique advantage of having a VPN, which basically masks who and where an online surfer is -- and could pave the way for a better deal.

“You might even find that using the booking website for a country you’re visiting, by using a VPN, is cheaper than booking from home," he offered. "Our researchers found that for six days’ car hire in Dublin, Ireland, this March the price they were quoted going through Expedia’s Irish site was less than half that for exactly the same rental package through the US site.”

Phishing poles, un-updated apps, and free wi-fi traps

Given their success over the 2022 holidays, scammers are likely to amp up their phishing efforts, too. Briedis said that scammers will be out in force with fake offers designed to target things like a person’s details and bank balances and mimic genuine customer loyalty schemes.

“Check any offer by visiting the company’s website separately and don’t click on any email links or attachments unless you are sure you’re dealing with a legitimate business,” he said.

Other things people should consider strengthening include:

App updates: Hackers constantly watch for vulnerabilities in apps and try to figure out how to make some hay off those holes. Briedis suggests making sure all your apps are up to date before you take off.

Stay off of social media: This may be tough to do, but leaving Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media platform you use alone while you’re vacationing could help keep scammers’ curiosity in check. 

“Not only can burglars looking at your feed discover your home is empty, seeing you on real-time social media like Instagram Live can reveal that you’re not around to defend your property. Even those very familiar with online privacy can still give away a stack of personal information through mistimed posts including upcoming travel plans.”

Public wi-fi is loaded with prying eyes: Briedis suggests that whether you’re in an airport or a hotel lobby, try to resist using the free public wi-fi those places may offer.

His reasoning is that free wi-fi is an added opportunity for cybercriminals to access and compromise your security. Not only can criminals set up fake hotspots, but they can also hack into unsecured public routers and monitor your online activity as well as drop some malware onto your device.

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