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Internet Cafes Can Steal Passwords and Credit Card Numbers

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I can remember the story of a couple of girls that I met in a little expat bar called Sapos in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. Their rather simple story went as follows:

One of them went to withdraw money from her ATM card to find her account wiped out. They had no idea how this happened, but a call to the bank insured them that it had occurred while they were traveling in Central America.

The girl still had her ATM card in-tact, as it was the numbers off of it that were evidently copied and used. I listened to her talk circles around herself as she told a half dozen “it could’ve happened when we were at. . .” stories. This seemed funny to me. It seemed funny that someone would be able to just magically copy the numbers off of her card. This was probably not done manually, but electronically.

I did not want to exert my opinion of what happened, as it would make me feel like a prick, but it seemed like a decent possibility that the girl had used the card to purchase something from a public computer and had the numbers saved in the internet browser or they used a shady ATM. This type of thief happens.

It probably did to that girl. She had no more money and had to go home.

Travel tip: do not use public computers for sensitive business. If you do, make sure you clear all the private data and browsing history! Make sure you also know where these options are in all popular web browsers because there is a good chance that you will not be able to read the language that they set in in other countries. In point, I am even weary to log into my email account on a public computer because I know that the security can be easily violated.

Travel tip: do not trust all ATMs. Try to use only ATMs that are connected to major banks during business hours.

Subsequent to hearing this story about how this girl mysteriously lost her money I found out about another way her credit card information could have been lifted. There are keystroke tracking programs which record passwords or other sensitive information that can be installed on computers without anyone knowing. Read this page:

If one of these programs were installed on a computer, someone could easily access any data source that you open.

Travel tip: be aware that public computers may be able to record the information that you put into them.

As always, take this tip and use it, or write it off as rubbish and never think of it again.

Walk Slow,

Wade

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Filed under: Technology, Travel Safe, Travel Tips

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap