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What if Your Travel Money Card Got Hacked at the Olympics?

A travel money card can take the stress out of visiting a city like Rio, where hacking has become a big problem for the Olympics. There has certainly been a lot of news about the dangers of traveling to Rio this summer. From Zika to street crime and dirty water and now this: apparently Brazil is a hotbed of hacking activity and one direct result of that is that travelers' credit cards are becoming compromised left and right during the 2016 Summer Games.

Brazil is a Leader in Digital Technology for Hacking

Brazil has a high rate of internet use, with roughly half its population using the internet regularly¹. It's admirable, but the flip side of that is there are also plenty of tech-savvy people using their knowledge for criminal activity... namely, hacking. So when the 2016 Summer Olympics came to town, as it did this month, those hackers went into overtime. After all, Rio was suddenly flush with opportunity with all the arriving tourists, credit cards and debit cards.

Any Global Travel Event is a Party for Hackers

Of course Brazil doesn't corner the market as a breeding ground for hackers. It's a global problem and it always heightens when there's a high-travel important event like the Olympics. It's a very target-rich environment, to say the least. Tourists often arrive with plastic that has a much higher credit limit on it than what locals are used to. Many visitors are far wealthier than the residents of Rio, which is known as a city with a great discrepancy in income levels among its population. Despite the incredible wealth coming out of Brazil in the last decade, there was always a severe poverty problem, and now the country's economy is in a tailspin. So you can imagine the environment. And what with the Rio police already too busy dealing with the extra workload that comes when your city hosts the Olympic games, cyber security has not been a top priority.

How Does Hacking Happen?

At the Olympics, much of the hacking that's taken place has been via malicious websites that trick users into giving up their PINs and passwords. Then, that stolen data is used to log into credit card accounts and bank accounts. Another hacking method is to clone credit cards. According to ex-pats who live in Rio, this is commonplace and the credit card companies expect it to happen. Hackers use radio frequency interception (RFI) anywhere credit cards are used: restaurants are common hacking points, since that's where the tourists are. The common portable POS machines that waiters bring to the table get hacked, and many of the latest ones can even read the chip and pin. Thirdly, skimmers may also be placed inside the slot at a cash machine. When the unsuspecting victim types in log-in credentials, it all gets skimmed by the hacker: even security codes and expiration dates.

Can it Happen to a Prepaid Travel Card?

Aside from international money transfers or carrying wads of cash into the country, there's no completely hack-proof way to carry money overseas while traveling. Chip and pin are essential, though, in preventing most hacking situations. If you're shopping while traveling and you encounter a POS (point of sale) which doesn't allow chip-and-pin, consider making your purchase elsewhere or using cash instead. But since international money transfers aren't exactly convenient for short-term tourists just visiting a city for a vacation, and since carrying that much cash isn't advisable either, your best bet is a prepaid travel card.

The Advantages of a Prepaid Travel Card in Situations Like This

The problem with credit cards when it comes to hacking is they have high credit limits. Hackers and thieves can quickly charge thousand of pounds' worth of transactions on a stolen card before the card holder even knows what's happening. With a travel money card, on the other hand, the limit is much lower. It's whatever the traveler has chosen to load onto the card at time of purchase or renewal. Plus, with ACE-FX travel money cards, if the card gets hacked, the traveler may simply notify immediately the card issuer and the card is immediately shut down. What's more, travelers may get some of their money back, if the crime is discovered in time and the thief hasn't used all the money on the card. Otherwise, however, any travel money card is treated like cash in that once the funds are used, there's no retrieving them.

References

  1. Internet Usage in Brazil. Statista. Retrieved 8/17/2016 from http://www.statista.com/topics/2045/internet-usage-in-brazil/

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