Survey: How worried are you about cybercrime while traveling?

Privacy news
12 mins

Traveling to new destinations offers a break from the ordinary and a chance to explore. But alongside the excitement, travelers face the growing shadow of cybercrime. Engaging with diverse cultures and landscapes now requires vigilance against digital threats that can disrupt the peace of any holiday.

According to a survey by ExpressVPN, with 8,000 respondents from the U.S., UK, Germany, and France, 7% of travelers have encountered cybercrime incidents during their trips. While this figure might not seem that high at first glance, the impact of these incidents is far from minor. We’re talking about serious issues like unauthorized bank transactions or personal data breaches, which can have long-lasting effects beyond the duration of a vacation.

This raises an important question for you, the traveler: how do you safeguard your online activity while on the road? Read on for our survey findings. 

Jump to…
The rise of cybercrime on holiday
Why tourists are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks
Cybercrime vs. physical crime on holiday
European travelers fear cybercrime in the U.S.
Cybersecurity confidence and preparedness
Preventative measures and tips
What to do if you’re a victim

Cybercrime on vacation: a growing threat

The resurgence of travel following a long period of Covid-19 restrictions has been a boon for the travel industry and adventurers alike, but it’s also made tourists prime targets for online crime. 

This surge in travel interest, as highlighted in an Intel 471 report, has not only revitalized the sector but also led to a spike in scams. The travel and tourism industries are ranked third-most affected by cyberattacks. 

“The travel and tourism sector is one of the most susceptible to cyberattacks, ranking third in incidents.”

This uptick in cybercrime can be attributed to two main factors: the haste with which travelers plan their trips and a general disregard for basic security precautions amid the excitement of being on holiday.

Why tourists are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks 

Traveling is all about discovering new places and experiences, but this adventure-seeking mindset can make tourists more vulnerable to cyber threats: 

  • Too-good-to-be-true deals: The excitement of finding a holiday package or accommodation at a special rate can overshadow rational decision-making. Scammers are aware of this and craft offers that are hard to resist, playing on the universal desire to get the best deal possible. 
  • Use of public Wi-Fi: It’s all too easy to jump onto free Wi-Fi in hotels, cafes, or tourist spots for convenience. However, these networks are often not secure, opening a door for cybercriminals to intercept your traffic.
  • Increased online activity: When you’re on the move, there could be a spike in your internet use—booking flights, reserving accommodations, or checking bank accounts on the go. This uptick in digital activity, especially done over risky networks, can lead to an increased chance of falling prey to scams like phishing.
  • Letting your guard down: The thrill of exploring a new locale can lead to a lapse in usual online safety habits. Many travelers, caught up in the moment, might not stay as alert to the cyber risks, engaging in online behaviors they’d usually avoid back home.
  • Targeting by cybercriminals: Tourists often become targets for cybercriminals betting on an increase in risky behaviors listed above.

Cybercrime nearly matches physical crime on holidays 

Traditionally, travelers have been advised to guard against physical dangers like pickpocketing or hotel room theft, affecting 10% of survey respondents. However, the threat of cybercrime isn’t far behind, with a notable 7% of travelers experiencing hacking or digital scams while on holidays. These incidents are slightly higher among American travelers.

Financial fraud leads cybercrime incidents among travelers  

Respondents report financial crimes including credit card, Google Pay, and Apple Pay fraud as the primary digitally related crime affecting holiday travelers. The problem is especially pronounced among British and French tourists: 49% of British and French cybercrime victims report having experienced financial fraud while on holiday. This is compared to 39% of U.S. and 29% of German victims. 

However, while money-related digital fraud stands out with an average incidence of 42% among all surveyed travelers, other forms of cybercrimes also significantly impact the holiday experience. Public Wi-Fi snooping has affected an average of 33% of respondents—a statistic that underscores the risks associated with using unsecured internet during travel. Similarly, 33% of cybercrime victims said their social media accounts got hacked while traveling and the same percentage received phishing messages (which aim to trick users into revealing personal information). 

Identity theft presents another considerable threat, with an average of 29% of cybercrime traveler victims claiming it’s happened to them. 

Additionally, our findings reveal that malware infections and ransomware attacks are cybersecurity threats faced by travelers, affecting 26% and 20% of cybercrime victims, respectively. 

The risk of social media oversharing 

The convenience of social media allows us to share our travel adventures in real-time, but it comes with its share of privacy concerns. Sharing too much info, like where you’re going or where you are, can attract the wrong kind of attention. This can make you an easy target for scams or theft.

While they didn’t specify which problems they faced exactly, according to our survey, 23% of French respondents have encountered privacy issues from oversharing while traveling—the highest among the surveyed groups. 

Have you or someone you know faced privacy issues from oversharing online during vacation? 

Yes, I’ve personally experienced privacy issues from oversharing while traveling.12%9%10%23%14%
Yes, someone I know has faced privacy or security problems due to oversharing during their travels.18%6%8%9%10%
No, I haven’t experienced any privacy risks from oversharing while on vacation.71%85%82%78%79%

In the U.S., about 18% of respondents know someone who’s faced privacy or security problems due to oversharing during travels, the highest of the countries surveyed.

The British have the lowest incidence of privacy issues from oversharing, followed by Germans. This could reflect a more restrained attitude towards what is shared online, or perhaps better use of privacy settings on social media platforms.

European travelers fear cybercrime in the U.S. 

We asked European travelers from the UK, Germany, and France which region they would be most worried about when it comes to cybercrime when visiting on holiday. Among the top regions that invoked concern, the U.S. stood out alongside other popular holiday destinations like Türkiye, Mexico, and Brazil. (Survey respondents were asked to choose from a UN list of the top 50 most popular countries for international travel in 2022.) 

Rank Country Average concern (%)
1Iran 🇮🇷11.3%
2Türkiye 🇹🇷10.3%
3U.S. 🇺🇸10%
4Romania 🇷🇴9.7%
5Colombia 🇨🇴9.3%
6Mexico 🇲🇽9%
7India 🇮🇳8%
8Brazil 🇧🇷7.3%
9Kazakhstan 🇰🇿7.3%
10Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦6.7%
11Morocco 🇲🇦6.7%
12Albania 🇦🇱6.7%
13South Africa 🇿🇦6.7%
14Thailand 🇹🇭6.3%
15Uzbekistan 🇺🇿5.7%
16Egypt 🇪🇬5.7%
17France 🇫🇷5%
18United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪5%
19Tunisia 🇹🇳4.7%
20Bulgaria 🇧🇬4%


But is there any basis for these fears? To understand the validity of these concerns, we need to look at the cybersecurity landscape of these destinations. The U.S. actually boasts a strong cybersecurity infrastructure. In fact, a recent TechRadar report places the U.S. among the safer countries for traveler cybersecurity.

Additionally, South Africa is the 13th most concerning destination according to our survey respondents, yet it stands quite strong cybercrime-wise according to TechRadar, landing in the top 20 for cyber safety.

In contrast, the fears regarding Türkiye, Mexico, and Brazil aren’t unfounded. These countries have reported higher rates of cybercrime incidents, with tourists often falling prey to scams and frauds that are increasingly sophisticated. These nations have higher instances of digital threats and lower cybersecurity measures in place, making the concerns of tourists valid.

Türkiye, in particular, faces significant digital threats, from credit card fraud to phishing attacks, making it important for travelers to exercise caution. Egypt and Kazakhstan also share similar concerns, with data privacy issues and risks associated with using public Wi-Fi networks. 

Travelers are becoming more cautious 

So how much are perceived digital dangers shaping travel decisions? In our survey, 24% said they would avoid destinations known for high levels of cybercrime. This is compared with 16% of respondents who said they were undeterred if a location had high levels of cyber threats. Meanwhile, 30% said they are more vigilant in such destinations.

Which of the following statements do you agree with?

I wouldn’t visit a destination known for high cybercrime.24%25%23%25%24%
I’m extra vigilant in destinations known for high cybercrime.30%26%22%23%25%
High cybercrime in a destination wouldn’t stop me from visiting.9%21%22%11%16%

American travelers lead in cybersecurity confidence and preparedness

With travelers getting more cautious about cyber threats on holiday, are they really ready for what’s out there? Americans seem to think so. 

U.S. respondents show the most confidence and action against cybercrime compared to their European peers. About 21% of them say they’re sure they’d know what to do if faced with cyber threats on their vacations, followed by the UK at 18%, France at 16%, and Germany trailing at 14%.

Moreover, Americans are also ahead in taking cybersecurity precautions on holiday. A solid 61% take measures for their security, like using strong passwords and being cautious with public Wi-Fi, when they’re away from home. 

The British and French are somewhat close, with 48% taking precautions, but only 39% of Germans do the same. 

Cybersecurity tips: Stay safe from hackers and scammers on holiday

The respondents in our survey who do take steps to guard against cyber threats, do so with a variety of measures that keep their digital life secure, especially while traveling. By following their lead, you can also protect yourself, making sure your digital self is as carefree as you are on your vacation.

1. Use a VPN

Among survey respondents who take cybersecurity precautions while traveling, 31% use a VPN to enhance their digital security. A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making your online activities unreadable to third parties, including internet service providers, Wi-Fi admin, governments, and attackers. This is why a VPN is highly recommended when using public Wi-Fi in places like airports, hotels, and cafes. 

ExpressVPN’s Aircove Go is a travel router designed to provide VPN protection, ensuring your connection is secure no matter where you are in the world. Connect your Aircove Go to a nearby Wi-Fi network, and all your devices connected to the router are protected.

2. Secure your devices before departure

Among those who take cybersecurity precautions, 33% ensure all their devices and apps are up to date. Before you even leave your home, make sure all your devices are updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software. This pre-emptive strike against potential vulnerabilities can save you a lot of headaches later.

3. Turn off auto-connect

Of the respondents who take precautions for their cybersecurity while traveling, 41% said they avoid using free or public Wi-Fi networks to stay safe. While it’s possible to auto-connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve used before (such as at a cafe you’ve visited recently), this increases your risks, as those networks could be unsecured. You’d ideally turn on a VPN when using a public Wi-Fi network. 

4. Beware of public charging stations

Public USB ports can be compromised to install malware on connected devices, a method known as “juice jacking.” Use a portable battery or plug into an electrical outlet with your charger to avoid this risk. It’s also possible to get a USB data blocker, which allows USB charging without data transfer.

5. Limit social media sharing

It’s tempting to share every moment of your adventure in real-time, but doing so can alert potential burglars to your absence from home and lower your physical safety. Delay posting your photos and stories until you’re back. Adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your posts, reducing the risk of them being used maliciously.

6. Opt for secure payments

Credit cards and mobile payment apps usually offer better fraud protection compared to debit cards. An RFID blocker could help prevent card skimming. Consider using a dedicated travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees and strong fraud protection. But most of all, stay vigilant about the amounts you’re being charged and whether goods and services are scams before handing over your cards.

7. Stay informed about local scams

Educating yourself about common online scams and phishing tactics, a step taken by 28% of respondents who claim to take precautions, can help you avoid falling victim. Research common scams in your destination. Websites and forums like TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet are valuable resources for recent traveler experiences.

8. Encrypt sensitive data

When traveling, while it’s wise to keep important personal data on you (such as medical information stored on a USB stick), ensure it’s encrypted to ensure data security. The other way to get strong encryption is to use a VPN on your devices, which makes all your data transmissions through your phone or laptop unreadable to third parties.

9. Use a password manager  

Among respondents who take cybersecurity precautions while traveling, 41% ensure all their accounts have strong, unique passwords, while 24% leverage a password manager. By using a password manager like ExpressVPN Keys, you can ensure that your passwords are not only strong and unique but also securely stored and easily accessible, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access to your accounts.

10. Be wary of shoulder surfers 

Of the travelers who take security precautions, 33% are cautious of their physical security, such as the threat posed by shoulder surfers. Shoulder surfing occurs when an individual covertly observes you entering sensitive information, like a PIN at an ATM or a security code on your phone. It’s a reminder that digital security isn’t just about what happens online but also about being mindful of your surroundings and the information you input.

11. Consider travel insurance 

15% of travelers who take cybersecurity precautions said they’ve bought travel insurance that includes cybersecurity coverage. Travel insurance with cybersecurity coverage can provide an extra layer of protection, offering support in the event of digital theft, loss of electronic devices, or even identity theft.

Scammed or hacked on holiday? Here’s what to do

Scams and hacks can happen to anyone, even those who consider themselves savvy. Here are a few actions to take.

  • Recognize the incident quickly: Signs might include unauthorized transactions on your accounts, sudden loss of access to online profiles, or unexpected alerts from your banks. Early recognition allows you to respond more effectively.
  • Change your passwords immediately: If you suspect your accounts have been compromised, change your passwords immediately. 
  • Alert your bank and credit card companies: Contact your bank and credit card issuers right away to inform them of fraudulent charges or stolen cards. They can monitor your accounts for suspicious activity, reverse fraudulent transactions, and reissue new cards if necessary.
  • Report the incident to local authorities: If the scam or hack involves theft or financial fraud, report it to the local police. This can be helpful for insurance claims, charge reversals, etc.
  • Use your travel insurance: If you have travel insurance with cybersecurity coverage, notify your provider. They may offer services to help mitigate the damage and cover certain losses.
  • Monitor your accounts: In the weeks and months following the incident, keep a close eye on all your financial and online accounts for any signs of unauthorized access or transactions.

Learn more: Explore deeper insights into travel trends from the U.S., UK, and Germany

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