Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
The building excitement of a coming vacation is hard to beat. But adding a little peace of mind can make it even better!
Travelers can be vulnerable to identity thieves, because scammers know you have a lot of key identification with you, possibly extra cash and you’re less likely to check on your accounts when you’re on the road. There’s also a very slim chance that you’ll ever run into them again. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect your identity before you hit the road!
Get identity theft insurance. Make that stress-free vacation a reality with insurance at your back. Identity theft insurance can be added to your homeowners policy for protection if your identity is stolen. Your policy helps with the costs of restoring your good name and gives you professional guidance through the restoration process. Let your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) help you add this safety net.
Contact your financial institutions. Let your bank and credit card companies know when and where you’ll be traveling. Many financial institutions offer some credit monitoring services and they’ll be on the lookout for charges coming from unexpected places or excessive charges.
Leave it at home. Do you carry extra information with you at home just because it’s more convenient? Most of us do and that’s fine when we’re in our normal environment, but it’s a risk when you’re traveling. Weed through your wallet or purse and take out anything you don’t really need. Leave your social security card, extra credit cards, checkbook, savings passbook and medical documents at home. Try to travel lightly when it comes to carrying sensitive data.
Protect it on the road. The few documents you have to take with you, like your driver’s license and your passport, should be protected as much as possible. Use the hotel safe to store your valuables and documents until you need them.
Keep your card. How many times have you gotten the check for dinner and just handed your credit card to the server? This practice is not safe and travelers might be more vulnerable than locals because it’s assumed it’ll take longer for them to notice and they won’t be back. Rather than handing over your credit card, ask if you can pay at the host stand, use a mobile wallet or pay in cash.
Watch the Wi-Fi. If a public Wi-Fi outlet alerts you that your data may not be secure, don’t ignore the warning! Avoid using public Wi-Fi to log into sensitive websites, like your bank account. And look for websites that have an “S” in the url, like https://www rather than http://www. The “S” stands for secure, meaning the website has some encryption for added security.
If you use your laptop in public often, consider getting a security plug-in, like HTTPS Everywhere, to give you added security automatically. If you do use a public computer, remember to log out of all accounts and delete all cookies and browsing history before you walk away.
Protect your cell phone. Your phone is packed with information about you that can put you at risk for identity theft. Add some security measures, like setting a password on your phone. Consider deleting sensitive apps with personal data, like your banking and medical apps, before you travel. Then you can reinstall them when you return home. Be just as cautious with public Wi-Fi as you are with your computer. And remember, while we all want that great photo of ourselves in front of the Eiffel Tower, handing your phone over to a stranger is not a great idea, why not use an actual camera instead?
Protect your phone number. Keep your phone number a secret whenever possible. Even though you’re on the do not call list, you may still get spam calls. Ony of the best ways to avoid these calls is to be careful with your number. By giving away your phone number, you increase your odds of getting these calls?
In addition to protecting your number, always be wary when someone calls you and asks you for personal and confidential information. If you’re unsure, tell them you’ll call them back. Then look up the phone number, don’t rely on what they tell you. Sure, it’s an extra step but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Change passwords and PINs. If you someone gets ahold of your password or personal identification number (PIN) while you’re on vacation, you can thwart their identity theft plans by changing it when you get home. If you really like your passwords, change them before the trip, then change them back when you return.
RFID-blocking wallet. Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) lets you wave your credit card in front of a reader to transfer your credit information, effectively avoiding traditional skimmers and giving your card to a stranger. But what if a hacker has an RFID reader? A simple RFID blocking wallet, or even a few layers of heavy aluminum foil, can block their efforts.
Pull your credit report. The best approach is to review your credit report before your vacation and then again after a trip. Don’t forget to check your bank accounts, too. Anywhere you think an identity thief may strike deserves a little extra vigilance.
Use a PIN based card. If your credit or debit card is stolen, it can be used just about anywhere. You’ve probably noticed that not everyone asks for supporting identification these days, so that layer of protection is gone. But if you have a PIN attached to your card, then they can’t just swipe and steal.
Just adding these extra safety precautions to your pre-trip checklist will ease your mind and put relaxation at the top of your agenda. Now you can really kick back and make those memories that last a lifetime.
This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.