Top Five Tips to Protect Your Identity While on Vacation
Identity thieves don’t take a vacation when you do. As a matter of fact, traveling creates unique opportunities for identity thieves. It was found that 30 percent of Americans have either been the victims of identity theft while traveling, or know someone who has, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Edelman Berland.
Crooks have no trouble hitting a moving target. That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect your identity as you prepare for your trip, and also while you’re traveling. Whether you’re traveling by plane, car, bus, train or cruise ship, here are five actions you should take to help safeguard your identity:
1. Travel light
The more you take with you, the more you have to lose. Carry only the essentials, such as your driver’s license, passport if you’re traveling outside the U.S., a credit card and your health insurance card (in case of emergency). Leave everything else securely stored at home, including your Social Security card, extra credit cards and other forms of identification.
2. Backup important documents
Before you leave home, make copies of your driver’s license, passport, credit cards and any other vital documents, and carry them with you. When you leave your hotel room, lock the copies in the hotel safe. If your wallet or purse gets lost or stolen while you’re sight-seeing, you’ll have the backups safely stored at the hotel.
3. Plan your trip carefully
It would be nice to think you can wander around and explore freely wherever you go, but that’s not always the case. To avoid possibly getting yourself into a bad spot, carefully plan where you’ll go and the sights you’ll see. Investigate the companies you’ll be traveling with and learn the names of reputable taxi companies and transportation providers at your destination.
4. Prep your home
Criminals who break into your home can now do worse than simply take your belongings. They can also steal your identity if they find documents or electronic items that contain sensitive information. Take steps ensure it looks like you’re still at home. Put lights on a timer so they switch on automatically when it gets dark. Put a hold on all mail and newspaper delivery. Ask a trusted friend to water outside plants or bring trash cans off the street so your home looks lived in. Secure important documents in a lockbox inside the house. Finally, turn off your home Wi-Fi network so no one can access your home systems while you’re away.
5. Stay alert
Of course you want to have fun and relax — you’re on vacation! But you still need to maintain some degree of vigilance. Be aware of your surroundings as you sight-see or pass through airports or other busy areas; thieves can physically pick your pocket and then use the information they reap to commit identity theft. Stay alert to scams, too — the “taxi” driver in an unmarked car who promises entry to a popular attraction at half the price or without a wait, or a hotel clerk who wants to keep your credit card for the duration of your stay.
If you suspect your identity may have been compromised while traveling, or you’ve been the victim of a scam, check your credit report for signs such as new credit accounts you didn’t open. When you return home, you should also review all of your credit card and financial accounts to determine if there are any unauthorized transactions. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if you see any activity you don’t recognize.
With a few simple steps you’ll be on your way to enjoying peace of mind during your next vacation. Safe travels!