Let the planning and preparing begin!
I found a great last minute deal online, but how can I be sure the site is legitimate and that it is safe to pay online?
It is important to adopt safe Internet shopping practices to make sure you are really on the site you think you are and also that you have a secure Internet connection. How do you know? You should always take the time to check that you are connected to a safe Web site. Here are some tips to help you.
• When it comes time to pay, look in the address bar for https:// instead of http:// to make sure you have a secure connection.
• To ensure that you are on the right Web site, click on the padlock on the screen and make sure it matches the company's name. If not, then don't buy from the site.
• Sometimes the browser address bar will turn green or red. If you see the red address bar, stop! Something is wrong and you are not on a trusted site.
• Don't enter your credit card or other confidential information from a public Wi-Fi hotspot as that connection is not secure
Before you enter your credit card, personal banking or investment account information, make sure your computer has the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
I want to travel overseas, what identity documents do I need?
The U.S. passport (all passports issued after June 2007 are electronic passports. To learn more about them, visit "What is an electronic passport" is required for any type of international air travel. The Passport Card and Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) are new travel documents that are only valid at U.S. land crossings and seaports (Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda). They are not valid for air travel.
The U.S. Passport Card and EDL are lower cost alternatives to the electronic passport and can easily be carried by people regularly crossing these borders. The EDL looks like a driver's license except for the word "enhanced" at top and it has a small picture of an American flag on the front.
If I want to use my cell phone abroad, how can I be sure it'll work?
First, make sure you get a GSM phone with a SIM card so you can have service worldwide. Without a SIM, you will be limited to North America and some countries in the Far East. Second, make sure that the phone supports the "frequency bands" that are used abroad. Ask your cell phone service provider or check on the manufacturer's Web site. Third, check with your service provider to see if they have "roaming agreements" in the countries where you are going, so you can use the other network when traveling there. These three things are needed for you to make and receive calls anywhere in the world, and to be accurately billed for them.
When I'm abroad
Lost my phone! What about my contacts?
We often ask ourselves what we should do to access to all of our contacts if we lose our cell phone or if it is stolen. There are several ways of going about it, depending on the features of your cell phone, the PC software that comes with it and optional services from your cell phone carrier.
- Prior to traveling, make a copy of the information in your phone on your PC, using a cable or Bluetooth connection and software that came with your phone
- As another option, if your phone has a SIM and you store phone numbers and text messages on it, you can copy the data inside the SIM to your PC using a small device and special software, or copy the data to a back-up SIM.
- Alternatively, cell phone operators offer an automatic backup service, usually for a small additional monthly fee. Contact your carrier for more information on their backup service options.
I've lost my passport on my trip! Who should I call first?
The U.S. Department of State recommends you first report a lost or stolen passport to the local police in the area in which the loss or theft occurred. You should then immediately contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In order to protect yourself from identity fraud, it is important to report a lost or stolen passport immediately. Start the replacement passport process as soon as possible. If you find your passport after reporting it lost or stolen, it will have already been cancelled and can no longer be used for travel.
Can I use my credit card when traveling internationally?
When traveling internationally, you can use your magnetic stripe card to pay, but can encounter difficulties with acceptance at places like train stations with automated ticket machines, automated pay at the pump gas stations, unattended parking lots and toll booths since chip and PIN cards are the standard in places like Europe. It has also been reported that magnetic stripe cards have been declined at some small retailers.
Many countries around the world, including those in Europe, use smart cards, also called chip and PIN. They have a small computer in them to improve your security, and require you to enter a PIN every time you use the card. When paying, you use the chip instead of the magnetic stripe that we use here in the U.S. You'll notice that your magnetic stripe card is swiped, whereas a smart card is actually inserted into the payment terminal.
Canada currently offers a solution, an EMV-compliant chip and PIN card that enables you to pay regardless of what type of payment terminal you encounter.
In most restaurants in Europe, it is common practice that your waiter brings the point of sale terminal to you so your card never has to leave your sight. If you encounter difficulties with your credit card in a store, insist that the retailer swipe your card and follow the prompts on the payment terminal, or ask them to contact their bank for instructions. You can also call your credit card company. For locations where there is no sales clerk, your only option is to try to locate a clerk who can help make your transaction.
When I get back home
One of my friends posted a picture of me on Facebook and I don't want everyone to see it. What can I do?
You can use the privacy settings to control who views your information and status updates. First give some thought to how accessible you want your personal information, phone number and photos to be. Do you want your tagged photos visible to certain individuals or group lists? You can set your profile to be private so only your friends can see it. With Twitter, you can lock your account so that only approved followers can see your tweets. Once logged in to any social networking site, there's a option given at the top or bottom of your home and profile pages. This is where you add photos, videos or text updates.
How do you prevent a tagged photo or video from showing up in all of your friends news feeds? Here's how to keep all tagged photos private: Go to your profile privacy page and change the setting for "Photos Tagged of You." Select the "Customize" option and when the dialog box pops up, choose "Only Me" and "None of My Networks." Don't forget about your photo albums. You'll need to fine-tune your settings to make them private on an album-by-album basis.
New since June 25, Facebook has a new privacy setting where you are able to grant access, depending on your selection to:
2) specific groups or
3) one individual.