We have covered other travel safety overseas scams previously, but we felt this one deserved a little more attention for multiple reasons.
First, I would just like to say that it is fabulous that you have such a great collection of friends who were willing to send you money as soon as they found out that you had been robbed overseas and needed cash to get home. It is unfortunate though, that because of over-sharing and lax password usage on social media that you now have to explain to them that it is your fault that they were swindled.
Break down the scam
Your besties log into their social media account or receive an email that says you are in this or that country and that you have been robbed. Since you are traveling and have been posting about it on the reg, this scenario looks plausible. In the post or email, you (i.e., the hacker who now has control over your account) request some help in the form of a wire transfer and include a link to send the cash. For the hacker, this is the perfect way to hide their identity since they need only the verification code to pick up the cash at a random transfer office and then can slip away without penalty or repercussion.
How is this possible?
First, the hacker uses your publicly posted social media to establish the back-story because they know you are overseas and the locations you are visiting. Secondly, an easy to guess/crack password is the next hurdle. The only thing left is to break into the account and post the plea for help.
Let’s address the password issue first
- If it is anything to do with birthdays: yours, your wife’s, or your children… It is bad.
- If it is the name of your children or pet… also bad.
- If you can look it up in the dictionary… Again – bad.
- If you have to memorize the password yourself, numbers, symbols, and phrases are good. Password managers that generate random passwords are best (and you do not have to remember or retype them).
Pro Tip: Don’t forget that your mother lists her maiden name in her profile and that many financial institutions use mother’s maiden name as a password recovery question. Kindly ask that she not share her maiden name. Alternatively, you can use your grandmother’s maiden name instead when asked for your mother’s maiden name.
So how does the typical internet thief make this all look legit? They would need to know details about your trip. In my perfect world, I would ask that you not share your travel details on publicly until you return. I do not mean that you avoid telling your friends that you will be on the road, you should definitely let your lifeline and friends know your itinerary. It means that broadcasting your travels over the internet to a world of strangers is a bad idea.
Make your account private on multiple fronts
In the privacy settings, make your posts viewable by friends only, not public. One of the first things a scammer needs for this particular scenario is to verify that you are going to be overseas, and where.
“Friends” list maintenance – do you even know those 3,000 people you call “friends”? Don’t forget they have intimate access to the life events you are publishing. I make sure I know my virtual friends in real life, have met them and know that they are real people. If not, they are off the list.
Also, make your email address private. “But wait, JC – how will people contact me on Facebook if my email is hidden?” They can use FB messenger/chat. Not to mention they can post to your wall if they want to reach you. Problem solved.
Our biggest takeaways from this?
- Revealing too much via social media is bad (just ask Kim Kardashian).
- Strong passwords are key. (See what I did there?)
- If you had travel insurance and a solid plan for cash & funds overseas, you would not be calling out for help via social media.
Ready for action?
If you are ready to shore up your virtual life, we have compiled some resources:
Click here to read our introduction to virtual security.
Click here to read more on how to take and carry money overseas.
Click here to read our article on why you need and how to set up a Password Manager.
Click here to read our article on why you need and how to choose a VPN.
How do you protect yourself and your friends from travel scams?
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Success! Thank you so much for joining us and I sincerely hope this helps you have a safer, more productive trip!