The Las Vegas area is a travel destination for many, but during the holidays, many residents plan trips away to visit out-of-town family.
Whether you’re leaving town for several days or showing out-of-town visitors around Vegas-area tourist attractions, remember that some good safety measures and carefully chosen travel items can help prevent ID theft during your holiday travels.
Officer Jared Spangler works in the fraud investigation unit of the Henderson Police Department. He estimates that his Henderson-based unit receives 1,000 complaints per year related to ID theft. Additionally, in 2012 the Federal Trade Commission received 2,302 complaints of ID theft from the Las Vegas-Paradise metro area according to FTC Spokesperson Jay Mayfield.
Stick with the essentials. Spangler advises that you bring only what you need for the trip—insurance cards, a photo ID, enough cash to pay for cabs and tips, and credit cards from two different companies.
Credit cards preferred. Spangler, who works closely with local banks and with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, says that it’s best to bring credit cards, rather than ATM/debit cards or cash.
A compromised ATM/debit card takes money directly from your account, says Spangler, and regular cash is something that you can’t get back. By contrast, credit cards give their owners a 30-day leeway to dispute any unauthorized charges.
Bring only two credit cards at most, from different companies, recommends Spangler. Make copies of the front and back of each card, and leave the copies at home in a secure place.
When paying, stay with your card. Credit card “skimming”—stealing and then selling credit card data—can happen in just a few seconds while a card and its owner are separated, says Spangler. If it’s not possible to stay with the card, then that is one time that you might want to use cash instead.
Check your balance. Check your account balances every day to make sure there’s no unauthorized activity, says Spangler. While traveling, avoid entering sensitive financial information over a public wireless network. Some banks offer text message or email alerts to notify you when certain criteria, such as an unauthorized transaction, occur.
Once you’ve narrowed down your travel items to a few essentials, proper packing and storage can help keep them safe, says Jon Holloway, owner of Sacramento-based Holloway Travel Outfitters. He says under-the-clothing pouches can help keep difficult-to replace items, such as passports and money, out of the reach of sticky-fingered pickpockets.
Additionally, Holloway says Radio frequency ID (RFID) cards are commonplace in Europe. This technology transmits data via a close-range, non-contact broadcast, allowing users to wave a card near a reader. According to Spangler, U.S. banks have raised concerns about the technology, saying criminals could use RFID readers to intercept data.
The latest generation of travel bags can hold contents in metal-lined pockets that deflect sensitive data away from RFID readers, Holloway says.
If you’re traveling this season, a little advance planning for financial items can help protect you and your family from ID theft.
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