Sun, Sand, and Cyber Scams?

Woman in white shirt with laptop and phone wearing earbuds with ocean in background on holiday protecting from summer fraud and cyber scams.

Memorial Day signals the unofficial start of summer and an uptick in travel. Unfortunately, it also presents new opportunities for fraudsters to get ahold of your personal information. Before you dive into the long weekend and summer season unprotected, here are a few tips to keep from getting burned.

Keep an Eye on Your Bank Accounts 

You’ve earned every right to relax on your vacation, but if you remain vigilant of one thing, let it be your bank accounts. Traveling and spending outside of your normal routine can increase your exposure to bank fraud and identity theft, both of which will grow more costly the longer they are left unaddressed.

Scammers expect you to have your guard down while traveling and will take advantage of your distracted state in any manner possible. Methods can include compromising your data online, obtaining your information through ATM skimmers, or even traditional pickpocketing.

How to protect yourself from bank fraud: 

  • Alert your financial institution that you will be away. (Community First members can self-manage their Travel Alerts through their Digital Banking)

  • Download your financial institution's app for easy access to your accounts. (Download Community First's app

  • Sign up for transaction alerts and notifications so you’ll know right away if there has been any fraudulent activity

  • Clear unnecessary items from your wallet that contain personal information

  • Don’t mention your travel plans on social media

  • Keep wallets in your front pocket and use purses with zipper or snap closures  

Exercise Caution when Using Free Wi-Fi

Free, public Wi-Fi might seem like a no-brainer when you’re away from home and need internet access, but proceed with caution. Many public networks lack strong security protections which makes it easy for scammers to hack into them and retrieve your personal information, emails, usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. 

Before you enjoy some downtime browsing the internet at the airport, hotel, or nearby coffee shop, take a moment to consider if you’re connected safely. 

How to Protect Yourself from Wi-Fi Scams:

  • Use your mobile data instead

  • Use a virtual private network (VPN)

  • Limit public Wi-Fi use to activities that don’t involve personal information or require you to enter a username and password (stick to looking up restaurants, reading the news, checking the weather, etc.)

  • Check your network settings to ensure your device doesn’t automatically connect to available free Wi-Fi

  • Ask the establishment staff for the exact name of its network and its password (a network that doesn’t require a password probably isn’t secure)

Avoid Public Phone Charging Stations

Packing for your next trip? Make sure you grab your phone charger. 

According to the FBI, using public phone charging stations – like those commonly found in airports, hotels, and malls – could put consumers at risk of fraud.

While undoubtedly convenient, free charging stations have the potential to be compromised by criminals hoping to steal your personal information. Also known as “juice jacking,” scammers use public chargers to infect phones and devices with malware that helps them gain access to your usernames and passwords. 

How to Protect Yourself from Public Phone Charging Scams:

  • Carry your own USB cables and charging plugs

  • Rely on traditional electrical outlets 

  • Bring an external battery

  • Invest in a “charging-only” cable from a trusted supplier

  • If you plug your device into a USB port and a prompt displays with options for how to proceed, ALWAYS select “charge only”


Be Wary of Patriotic Offers and Incentives

Over the next four months, we have the privilege to recognize past and present members of the military on three separate occasions: Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. While millions of Americans will celebrate these occasions honoring our service men and women, fraudsters use it as an opportunity to exploit their patriotism. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, active-duty military members lost nearly $330,000 and veterans over $2 million to targeted scams on Memorial Day in 2021. Fraudsters commonly pose as military charities soliciting donations, the Veterans Administration (VA) requesting veterans update their personal records, and housing representatives offering discounts in an effort to snag security deposits, among others. 

How to Protect Yourself from Patriotic-Themed Scams:

  • Research charities and businesses to confirm they are legitimate 

  • Avoid aggressive selling tactics and emotional appeals

  • Never wire money to strangers

  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails and texts

Stay Alert

In addition to taking precautions during your travels and holiday celebrations, be mindful of your online activity and financial transactions in the planning phase (scammers are known to impersonate travel agencies and property owners, and create fake offers and booking sites), and remain watchful for unusual bank account activity after you return home.

Wherever the summer takes you, make sure it’s one you remember for all the right reasons.   

Community First Members - if you think you have been the victim of fraud, contact us immediately so we can take steps to protect your accounts.

Related Blogs