Help Avoid Identity Theft While on Vacation
Ah, vacation. Just the thought of hitting the road or stepping on that plane may elicit feelings of anticipation and relaxation. After all, you’re about to leave the stress of everyday life behind and embark on a journey of discovery — hopefully one overflowing with new experiences and happy memories.
Unfortunately, settling into a relaxing routine, letting your guard down and traveling with sensitive personal and financial documents may leave you open to identity theft. What can you do to help protect your information? Consider the following before and during your trip.
Before You Leave
You may have an idea on what you want to pack for your trip, but here are a few more things to add to your to-do list:
- Let your bank and credit-card issuers know that you’re going to be traveling. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises that you give financial institutions a heads up, as well as specific dates, locations and a phone number where you can be reached. That way they can contact you about any possible suspicious activity if necessary. You may even want to consider freezing certain accounts, says the BBB.
- Put a hold on your mail. According to U.S News and World Report, you may want to consider letting the post office hold onto your mail rather than having it pile up in your mailbox or on your front steps.
- Make photocopies of all important documents — passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards — and emergency contact information for the various organizations that issue them. This can help expedite the replacement process if anything is lost or stolen. Keep one set of documents in a separate piece of luggage, and the other set at home with a trusted friend or family member.
- Leave traveling references off social media websites, says Consumer Reports. Don’t let potential thieves know you’re not home.
- Weed out your wallet. The BBB suggests you only take those items that are absolutely essential for your trip so you don’t lose any other cards or receipts that may contain your personal information on it.
- Keep your luggage tags confidential. Don’t put your full name and address on your luggage tags, states the BBB. Simply list your last name and phone number.
- Protect your smartphone. The BBB advises that, if you haven’t already, set up a password for your smartphone. You may also want to consider installing apps like Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager to help find your phone if it’s stolen.
While You’re There
After you’ve prepped and packed for your trip, make sure to remain vigilant while you’re away with these tips:
- Watch what you throw away. The BBB says to consider shredding the following items: boarding passes, flight itineraries or car-rental receipts.
- Use bank ATMs only. If you decide to use an ATM, the BBB suggests finding a machine that’s attached to a bank. These ATMs generally offer more security than stand-alone machines, states the BBB.
With these proactive steps, you can get back to enjoying your vacation with the peace of mind knowing your identity has some protection.
Originally published July 1, 2014.