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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.

 

Travel Smart: Avoiding ID Theft On-the-go

Jul 01

avoiding-identity-theft-while-traveling
Planning a trip? Whether for business or pleasure, travel can make you vulnerable to identity theft if you don’t take precautions to keep your information secure. As identity theft concerns continue to mount, it’s important that you take action before, during and after your trip to protect yourself. Curious about how to keep things locked-down when you’re on the move? See how many of the tips below aren’t a part of your travel plans; now may be the right time to consider adding them in before your next trip.

Before you go:

  • Book your travel on a major credit card.
    When you’re ready to pay for tickets and reserve accommodations, avoid using a debit or ATM card, as credit card companies are better equipped to help you if fraudulent charges are made to your account. Some credit cards provide travel insurance to protect against issues such as cancelled flights, flight delays and lost baggage. Also, bank accounts don’t report to the credit agencies like credit card companies do, so it may be more difficult to track or spot problems when they occur.
  • Alert your credit card company when you’ll be traveling.
    Inform the company of exactly where you’re going and your dates of travel. This will ensure that you can use your credit card without interruption while you’re away and potentially protect you from unauthorized purchases as well. Credit card companies train their representatives to watch for unusual activity on accounts. If the company doesn’t know you’re traveling, personnel may think someone else is making charges far from your home address and freeze your account to protect you. While their vigilance is good (they’re paying attention to the norms of your purchasing behavior), it can be a serious hassle to confirm that it’s really your activity when you’re on the road – especially if your travel is international.
  • Don’t broadcast your trip on social media.
    It might be tempting to share advance details or details of your trip via social media, but doing so can make you more vulnerable to identity thieves. When you post such information, it lives online forever, telling would-be thieves of your extended absence. Don’t arm them with information about when you won’t be home. Instead, share your photos and stories after you return.
  • Put your mail on hold.
    Ask your post office to keep all your mail for you while you’re away. Too much mail at your address is a red flag that you’re gone and it can be an invitation to thieves – particularly if they’ve already learned of your vacation online. If your mailbox isn’t locked, anyone can easily slip a hand inside to steal personal information, such as bills or statements that include account numbers or medical information.

While you’re away:

  • Keep personal identification documents on you at all times.
    Passports, driver’s licenses, and credit and bank cards should always be in your possession. Many identity thieves see visitors as easy targets; it’s much more difficult to steal personal information directly from your person than it is to snatch it from a bag or your hotel room.
  • Use only secured networks when accessing personal information.
    Avoid public computers and Wi-Fi networks that aren’t password protected when you access personal information, such as bank accounts or medical provider information portals.
  • Always guard your smartphone.
    Phones aren’t just for talking anymore. They’re data-rich gold mines for anyone looking to steal personal information. Turn off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it: accessing a phone via Bluetooth is a known entry point for many hackers.

When you return and beyond:

  • Check your credit report.
    Once you’re back home, scan your credit report for any recent inquires or new accounts that you don’t recognize. This can be a signal that your information was compromised while you were gone.
  • Review your credit card and bank account statements.
    As a secondary step, looking over these can help you identify any unauthorized transactions so you can confirm that no suspicious activity took place while you were traveling.
  • Consider adding credit monitoring to your credit report.
    One of the easiest ways to continuously patrol for indicators of identity theft is to subscribe to a credit monitoring product. Having a partner keep an eye on your credit on a proactive daily basis will help you stop identity thieves in their tracks, and minimize the amount of damage they can wreak within your records.

Although travel can open up opportunities for identity theft, taking a few precautions can go a long way toward mitigating those risks. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, traveling smart should help keep the threat of identity theft at bay.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.

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