It’s that time of year when more and more people travel to visit family over the holidays or even travel for end of year business commitments. Identity theft never takes a vacation, and in fact, thieves would like to take advantage of your merry travels. Here are tips to take before, during and after your trip to protect yourself and not let your identity travel to an identity thief’s hands!
Preparing For Your Trip
Preparation is key when traveling – packing, getting someone to watch your pets and having the money ready for your travels. Here are some tips to keep your identity packed away for safe keeping before you leave.
- Make sure you book travel on a major credit card to take advantage of services to help prevent fraudulent charges made to your account. Check with your credit card company may also provide travel insurance to protect against travel issues such as lost baggage or cancelled flights. Your card company will also keep track of unusual purchases for you unlike debit cards.
- The key to receiving all this coverage and assistance from your credit card company is to notify them that you will be traveling. It is best to contact them with the dates and location, so they can make a note in your file. Your account could get flagged for unusual activity even if you are the one making the purchase if you are in a different location – especially international travel.
- Do not take critical documents with you. Some of the essential documents people carry with them on a daily basis include Social Security card, bank statements, medical documents and checkbook. You will most likely not need these items, so it is best to leave them at home.
- Protect your children from identity theft also. There are a variety of documents needed for children to travel including birth certificates and Social Security cards. You can replace taking these smaller critical documents by just getting a passport. This is one document to keep track of and will be easier not to misplace. For more on this topic, see the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) information on Child Identity Theft.
- Hold your mail. This may sound silly if you are only gone for a few days, but that’s all it takes – especially if thieves already know you are out of town.
- Don’t broadcast your trip. Don’t let the thieves know you are out of town. This makes you a target. If you use social media, this information will live online. It is best to wait until you are home to share photos and stories from your travels.
During Your Trip
You’ve made it and are having fun. Let the fun continue by keeping your identity safe. Here are some tips to follow while you are away.
- Be cautious when you use shared and insecure Internet connections. This is easier said than done sometimes when you travel. The best approach in this case is to be very careful when using these connections; logging into your bank account, work email or other sensitive account should be avoided if at all possible] If you’re traveling with your own laptop and using free Wi-Fi, it is important to make sure your connections are secure.
Some websites let you log in over open networks; always try to use HTTPS://www.website.com instead of HTTP://www.website.com (the S stands for “secure” and indicates that the data is encrypted for more protection).
You may also want to delete your cookies and browsing history. Here are some additional tips from the FTC on Using Public Wi-Fi Networks.
- Keep your documents and smartphone with you at all times. Make sure you do not leave anything like passports, credit cards or your cell phone in your hotel rooms or in a bag that is easy to grab. Your cell phone is just as valuable to a thief as your wallet. You may want to consider adding passcodes to prevent easy access.
- Use only bank ATMs. A new, growing trend is for identity thieves to install card readers on an ATM to access your card number and PIN. This usually happens with non-bank ATMs like the ones you see in convenience stores and hotels. The ones at banks are targeted less often.
You Are Home…But Not Necessarily Safe Yet
It’s important to review your credit card and bank statements regularly. Also, check your credit report shortly after returning home. If you are still worried or afraid you will forget, consider adding credit monitoring to your report. This is especially useful if you travel often.