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Protecting your financial accounts when traveling internationally

Date posted:  11/10/15 12:45:00 PM Individuals should be even more protective of their financial data abroad.

Cyber attacks have increased considerably in both number and severity in recent years, and when traveling abroad, the potential of being hacked is even higher. According to a Ponemon Institute study commissioned by CNNMoney, 47 percent of American adults were hacked in 2014. Roughly 110 million people had personal information stolen last year alone, and hackers were able to access 432 million personal accounts.

For those with several accounts, like email, savings, checking or investment, the likelihood of being a victim of cyber fraud may increase simply because criminals have more avenues to exploit. Plus, many people use the same authentication credentials for more than one of their accounts, meaning a breach of one could make it much easier to access another.

While cyber criminals may be quick to steal credit card information from unsuspecting consumers, individuals with greater assets may be at a higher risk because they are more appealing targets. These wealthier account holders are also more financially capable of traveling internationally, whether for business or private affairs. When entering another country, travelers should be aware that they are leaving behind U.S.-designed cyber protections and regulations.

"Travelers should be aware they are leaving behind U.S.-designed cyber protections and regulations."

Without domestic cyber security in place, individuals should place themselves on high alert and be even more particular with how and when they access their financial accounts.

So how can you reconcile international travel and cyber security?

Alert financial institutions beforehand
If you make a transaction abroad, your bank will likely flag the purchase because it is not aware that you are, in fact, out of the country. While this protective measure is important and shows that your bank is taking active steps to deter fraud, it can also freeze your account, leaving you with no access to funds. By notifying all institutions where you hold an account of your plans to travel, you and your banks will be on the same page, thus decreasing the chance of unauthorized credit card transactions occurring.

Back up all personal files
If you're bringing your personal electronic devices like smartphones, laptops or tablets, then be sure to back up each one prior to departing. In the case of cyber theft, or even simply a travel-related loss, you will still have full access to your files once you return home.

Opt for temporary devices
An even better strategy in regard to electronics is to use temporary "loaners." Some companies actually provide their employees with these devices, which typically provide less functionality and limited data storage. This cuts down on the chance of losing personal information in spite of your desire to always be connected to the Internet.

Cyber security should be an even higher priority when traveling.Cyber security should be an even higher priority when traveling.

Refrain from connecting to public Internet connections
If you have investments, it's common to check in on their status regularly. However, logging into online financial platforms while overseas could subject your accounts to cyber attacks, especially when connected to public Wi-Fi. It's often difficult to locate a secure connection in areas that do not have stringent cyber regulations, but even in dire cases public Wi-Fi should be avoided.

Disable unused features
Accessing personal credit card information or using online financial tools will be necessary from time to time, but when devices are not in use, all discoverable features should be disabled. Bluetooth, GPS and location services allow others to identify your network and personal device. And if you have a significant amount of money linked to an online account, hackers can breach the server easily. Turn off these settings and limit usage as much as possible.

Change your PIN
Sharing personal identification numbers (PINs) across multiple accounts is never a good idea, which is why your PINs should vary. You can change all of your PINs prior to traveling or upon your return to thwart hackers who may have lifted your PIN.

Wealth management goes beyond the physical safeguarding of assets, especially when traveling outside the U.S. Be sure to implement these security measures to protect your accounts and devices.