Although we are aware of the possibility of identity theft when shopping near home or on the Internet, it’s easy to become lax when traveling. You’re on vacation, after all, and theft usually isn’t foremost in your mind. But it should be. Travelers are actually very susceptible.
Here are some tips to give you peace of mind while enjoying new adventures.
- Notify your bank prior to leaving about where you
are going and how long you will be gone. This is especially important if
you are traveling overseas because the credit card company could deny your
card if they detect charges in a foreign country that are deemed
suspicious, even if they are legitimately yours. You could be left without
the ability to use the card, even for your hotel stay.
- Take the phone number of your bank in case you
need to report a theft. Make photocopies of your credit cards, front and
back, so you’ll have the customer service number to call and card number
- Take cash in small bills, and don’t put it all in
one place. When going out put some money in your wallet and other bills in
a money belt that wraps around your waist under clothing. Hidden zippered
are usually okay, especially if in the front of your garment. Your checked
suitcase is especially vulnerable to unscrupulous baggage agents.
- Leave your checkbook, Social Security card and
any credit cards you don’t plan to use at home. Don’t let credit cards out
of your sight.
- Know local conversion rates, and beware of locals
who offer to help you with conversion. That’s most likely a scam.
- Lessen risk of using bogus ATMs that can swipe
your number to use later; stick with hotels or banks to get cash from
- Keep your smart phone or iPad with you in a
secure place, or put it in the safe in your hotel room. These devices
store a lot of information about you--your likes and habits, where you
have been or are going, and shopping preferences—that thieves could use to
steal your identity. Using a variety of passwords that are at least eight
characters long also deters hackers.
- Be careful not to leave your phone on a
restaurant table or store counter —or even in your purse unless it’s in an
enclosed or zippered pocket (forget about handbags with phone pockets on
the outside). Don’t make it easy for a thief to snatch your phone and be
gone before you realize what happened.
- Make sure virus protection and malware are active and
you’ve downloaded the latest updates, especially if using a public WiFi
network. Even checking email may provide crafty thieves with the means to
find out credit card or social security numbers.
- Avoid checking your bank account, paying bills, or making purchases online when traveling as public WiFi networks are notoriously unsecure. If possible, pay bills before you leave or set automatic payment to kick in while you’re away.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Know where you are going, and avoid unsafe areas or shortcuts.
Take precautions prior to and during travel to safeguard your finances. You can purchase identity theft protection to guard against fraud, but the best solution is prevention. That means being aware of what’s on your technological devices and actively working to keep your money, accounts, and personal information secure.
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