By Burton Kelso
Winter is approaching, which tends to be a slower season in the real estate industry—a perfect time to take a vacation. Vacations are an exciting, happy time for you to get away and tune out the everyday worries of your day-to-day work and home routine. Before you head out for a day trip, stateside vacation, or international travel, you need to take some steps to prevent your personal information from being stolen. There are things you need to be cautious of, such as who you book your vacation with, how you use your tech devices, and what you share on your social media accounts.
If you’re looking for ways to protect your information while vacationing, check out these quick and easy tips to help keep your data safe.
1. Book your vacation from secure websites. Most of you probably know this, but it’s always good to reminder to remember to make sure you go directly to the official website of the company you’re making reservations from rather than through an emailed link. Before you enter in any personal data, make sure the website has “HTTPS” in the URL or address bar of your browser. Also, consider working directly with a travel agent to make sure your data is kept safe and secure. With an agent, you don’t have to worry about if your data will get compromised on a website.
2. Make sure you have password protection or PIN numbers enacted on all of the devices you carry with you. Mobile tech items like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are high theft items. And for real estate pros, your smart devices are also your key to your livelihood and may contain information about your clients as well. If your data wound up in the wrong hands, it would be a disaster. When picking a PIN or a password, use a strong one that will have the most skilled cybercriminal scratching their head. I know I don’t have to tell you never to leave your devices unattended…right?
3. Keep an eye on those financial accounts while you’re traveling. If you’re like me, you’re probably on your phone when you first wake up. But instead of hopping on social media or email, first, log into your financial accounts to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. If you catch fraudulent transactions quickly, it’s easier to recoup your money and prevent more from being lost.
4. Never use public computers. My advice is to just avoid them like the plague because you never know what information it may collect. If you must use one, always make sure you’ve logged out of your accounts before leaving. This rule applies to both major hotel chains and Airbnbs.
5. Avoid connecting to free public WiFi whenever possible. If you’re traveling abroad, keep in mind some countries may not have the same regulations on public WiFi as we do in the U.S. If you have to connect to WiFi, use the ones offered at most major hotel chains. If you’re staying at a smaller, privately-owned establishment, don’t risk it. If you absolutely, positivity have to use that free public WiFi, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your computer or smart device to keep cybercriminals from intercepting your personal data.
6. Turn off Bluetooth on your devices—and your WiFi hot spot, too. Bluetooth headphones and other devices are great to use, but you want to turn off your Bluetooth and your WiFi because criminals can use these connections to access your devices without your knowledge.
7. Put your devices in the hotel safe if you don’t take them with you. It’s worth the price of using the hotel room safe to store your smart devices if you decide not to take them with you. Things you should consider putting the safe are laptops, USB drives, external hard drives, and portable technology. Never leave these things lying around your hotel room.
Vacations are a time to destress and unwind. Taking a few moments to protect your and your clients’ personal information while on vacation will help give you that peace of mind. If you follow the above steps for all of your gadgets, it will help you relax and enjoy your vacation.
Burton Kelso is the chief technology expert at Integral, which provides computer repair and tech support for the home and office. Integral can fix Windows, Macintosh, servers, printers, routers, smart-home technology, and everything else that connects to the internet. Learn more at callintegralnow.com.