Travel Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft on Vacation
As you take off for vacation with your family and friends, the last thing you likely want to think about is identity theft. But, unfortunately, traveling with personal and financial information can put you at risk for having your identity stolen. Here’s how to help protect your identity before, during and after vacation.
Before Leaving for Your Trip
Follow these tips to help protect your identity before leaving for vacation, says Experian:
- Don’t post about your plans online: After booking your trip, avoid posting about your plans on the internet and social media. You should only share information with trusted friends and family.
- Call your bank and credit card companies: Let these companies know you’ll be traveling, including when and where you’ll be traveling to, says Equifax. It may also be a good idea to freeze any financial accounts you won’t be using while on vacation.
- Put your mail on hold: You can typically ask your local post office to hold mail for up to 30 days so it doesn’t pile up in your mailbox.
It’s also a good idea to consider purchasing identity theft insurance or an identity theft protection plan. Some identity protection plans include identity monitoring services that alert you of suspicious activity (for example, when potentially fraudulent credit card accounts are opened in your name).
Packing for Your Trip
As you pack for vacation, remember to keep these tips in mind:
- Make photocopies of important documents: Create photocopies of documents you may need for your trip, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including passports, driver’s licenses or credit cards. Plan to keep one set of documents in a separate piece of luggage or wallet in case anything gets stolen or misplaced.
- Keep luggage tag information to a minimum: Don’t write your full name and address on luggage tags. Instead, Experian recommends listing only your last name and phone number to help keep your information private.
- Remove nonessential items from your wallet: You should only bring the credit cards you plan to use, says the FTC. Be sure to take out anything else that can identify you.
- Safeguard information on your cellphone: Protect sensitive information that may be on your phone by setting up a password, recommends Consumer Reports. You may also want to consider installing an application that can help locate your phone if it gets lost or stolen.
While You’re on Vacation
These tips can help protect your identity while you’re away from home:
- Keep bank account information private: If you need to get cash while you’re away, try finding an ATM that’s monitored by security cameras or secured in a bank lobby, says Consumer Reports. This is because some identity thieves may try to install skimmer devices on ATMs. These devices can steal your card’s PIN (personal identification number) or other account data when you swipe your card.
- Protect your account usernames and passwords: Be careful when using public Wi-Fi, says Consumer Reports, as identity thieves may try to hack these connections to steal guests’ personal information. You should also think twice before using public computers. This is because security software may be out of date or key-logging software will remember your usernames or passwords.
- Lock up important documents: If your hotel room has a safe, lock up important documents, identifiable information and extra cash in it, recommends Experian.
- Don’t share your whereabouts: Continue to be cautious about what you post online and on social media while you’re away. Depending on your account settings, strangers (and potential thieves) may be able to see your posts and know you’re away from home, notes the Better Business Bureau.
After You Return
Even after you return from vacation, it’s a good idea to take a few proactive steps to help prevent identity theft:
- Check your bank and credit card account statements: Pull a copy of your credit report, says Experian. This can help you see if any suspicious activity took place while you were on vacation. And, remember to let your bank and credit card companies know you’ve returned from your trip.
- Shred sensitive documents: Consider shredding items that contain your personal information (such as boarding passes, flight itineraries or rental receipts).
- Update account passwords: If you accessed any of your accounts from a public computer or Wi-Fi connection while away, Experian recommends changing passwords on those accounts.
By taking these proactive steps, you can help protect your identity while you’re on vacation and focus on making new, happy memories with your family and friends.
Originally published on June 21, 2017.