There are so many things to worry about when you go on vacation: Will anyone notice the streaks in your spray-on tan? Will all the booze you packed in your baggage put you over the weight limit?
According to Joanne Nosworthy, associate vice-president of account recovery and fraud management at TD Canada Trust, there's something else you should worry about: debit and credit card fraud.
Canadians carry a total of 69 million credit cards and 40 million debit cards in their wallets. Of those millions of cards, a small fraction of a per cent are misused by fraudsters. However, that's no reason to let your guard down, Ms. Nosworthy says. In many of these cases of card loss, the victims were away from home and distracted at the time of the theft.
"Often it does happen when you're on vacation because you're watching your kids to make sure they're not wandering off, you're watching the scenery around you, and I think you let your guard down a little bit when you're on vacation," she says.
Ms. Nosworthy recommends travellers avoid putting their wallets in their back pockets and be especially alert in crowded areas, where thieves are known to target tourists. "They will look for anything to distract you," she says.
She offers several other tips for keeping your cards safe:
Write down the card issuer's phone number. On the back of all credit and debit cards, there's a phone number to reach the issuer in case the card is lost or stolen. The card issuer can usually send you a replacement card within 24 hours or can direct you to a bank branch for immediate assistance. If you don't write down these numbers and the cards go missing, however, you won't know who to call and will lose valuable time.
Protect your PIN. When conducting a transaction at an ATM or making a debit or credit card purchase, use your hand or body to shield the keypad when you enter your PIN, even if the device you are using has a visor.
Keep track of everything. Hang on to your receipts and keep them together. When your account statements arrive after returning home, review them to ensure all transactions and charges are correct.
Notify your card issuer. To discourage thieves from using stolen cards, your card issuer may deactivate your card if the usage is not according to your regular pattern. Prevent this by letting your issuer know you are going on vacation and will likely use your card more often.
Don't bring more than you need. You don't need a wallet full of credit and debit cards on vacation. Only take the essentials with you - 2 or 3 credit cards and your debit card should be enough.
Only bank where you feel comfortable. Conduct your ATM and debit transactions when and where you feel most secure.
If you've got it, don't flaunt it. Don't carry a lot of cash, and don't show off your credit or debit cards. Doing so may make you a target for fraudsters.
Put extra cards in the hotel safe. Having a source of cash on vacation is almost as important as protecting your passport, so don't carry all your cards with you while sightseeing. Keep at least one in a safe place.