Going on vacation means you can kick back and relax, right? Sleeping in or easing up on schedules is fine, but BBB advises travelers to stay on guard against identity theft.
Tourist destinations are hot spots for identity thieves, pickpockets and other scammers looking for travelers that are easily distracted and usually unfamiliar with their surroundings.
Wi-Fi networks in hotels, restaurants and airports usually have very poor security, making it easy for scammers to get a hold of personal and financial information of unsuspecting travelers.
Travelers can protect themselves by staying alert to their surroundings and putting wallets and travel documents where thieves would have a hard time stealing them, like in an inside coat pocket or travel wallet worn under your clothes. Be especially careful in crowded areas or on buses or other public transportation.
Other ways to protect your identity include:
- Avoid announcing your travel plans on social media. Thieves could target your home for a burglary while you’re away.
- Check your bag, wallet, etc. Not using your checkbook, address book, etc.? Leave them at home. They become clutter and if lost, you become a target for identity theft.
- Stop your mail and newspapers while you’re gone. An overflowing mailbox can be a tempting target for someone who wants to steal your personal information. Piled up papers could tip off thieves that your home is unoccupied.
- Remove unnecessary documents like library cards or other items that contain personal information from your wallet. Bring only what you expect to use.
- Set up a travel alert for your credit card account. You may also consider putting a credit freeze on your accounts to prevent someone from opening accounts while you’re away.
- Leave your computer at home. If you must bring it with you, update anti-virus or anti-spyware programs before you leave home, and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to access financial accounts. Never leave your computer unattended in a public place.
- Use only bank ATMs. Avoid those placed in convenience stores or in crowded areas, which may have poor security or allow thieves to look over your shoulder. Protect pin pads when using debit cards.
- Create a password for your cell phone. Consider downloading a GPS locator to use in case your phone is lost or stolen.
- Avoid putting your full name and address on luggage tags. Use only your last name and a phone number.
- Tear up or shred boarding passes before you discard them. The personal information on them could be used by thieves to steal your identity
If you are the victim of theft or you lose a wallet or cell phone while you’re traveling, make sure you know how to notify your bank, credit card companies or cell phone provider of the loss. Consider making a list of customer service phone numbers and/or account numbers that you keep separate from your wallet but not in checked luggage. If you’re traveling abroad, you may also want to bring a copy of your passport.