Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – When people go on vacation, they’re usually looking forward to relaxing, sleeping-in and having a worry-free break from reality. However, tourist destinations are hot spots for identity thieves, pickpockets and other scammers looking to take advantage of distracted travelers. BBB always advises vacationers to stay alert and be on guard for possible identity theft.
“Keep in mind that even though you may be on vacation, identity thieves are not and take this time to go to work,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Overall, a little pre-vacation preparation can go a long way toward making your trip memorable for all of the right reasons.”
Before departing on your next vacation, BBB offers the following advice for travelers:
Avoid announcing travel plans on social media. Thieves could target your home for a burglary while you’re away. Even if your privacy settings are set to share updates only with friends, you never know who these friends might inadvertently share information with and there’s always the unfortunate risk of friendly fraud. Turn off location settings and refrain from posting photos on social media until you return.
Leave unnecessary items at home. If you aren’t planning on using your checkbook, address book or department store credit cards, why bring them? They only become clutter and if lost, you become a target for identity theft. It’s always a good idea to bring as few credit cards as possible when you travel, making them easier to keep track of, as well as being easier to reconcile receipts with statements upon your return.
Stop your mail and newspapers while you’re gone. An overflowing mailbox can be a tempting target for someone who wants to to commit mail fraud. In addition, piled up papers could tip off thieves that your home is unoccupied. Consider asking a trusted neighbor, family member or friend to pick-up mail each day or request hold mail service through your local post office.
Set up a travel alert for your credit card accounts and notify credit card issuers and banks of upcoming travel plans. You may also consider putting a credit freeze on your accounts to prevent someone from opening accounts while you’re away. This can be done for a minimal cost through any one of the three credit reporting bureaus; Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. If you’ve been a victim of identity theft and submit a valid police report, there is no cost for placing a freeze on your credit report though.
Leave your computer or tablet at home, if possible. If you must bring it with you, update any anti-virus or anti-spyware programs before you leave home, and avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to access financial accounts. Wi-Fi networks in hotels, restaurants and airports usually have poor security, making it easy for scammers to get a hold of personal and financial information of unsuspecting travelers. In addition, never leave your computer or tablet unattended in a public place, where it could be accessed or stolen by a scammer.
Protect your smart phone. Though it may be possible that you are able to leave your laptop or tablet at home, it’s likely you’re still traveling with a smart phone. To be safe, create a password for your phone if you don’t have one already setup and consider downloading a GPS locator app to use in case your phone is lost or stolen.
As a rule of thumb, if you need to take money out, only use bank ATMs. Banks usually have daily monitoring procedures for their ATMs. Avoid using stand-alone ATMs 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 by shielding the screen with your other hand to prevent any hidden cameras from catching your digits and if the keypad looks loose or strange in any way, consider moving on, as it may be a false keypad placed over the real one to capture your information.
Avoid putting your full name and address on luggage tags. Use only your last name and a phone number. If your luggage gets lost, the airline can call you for delivery information.
Tear up or shred boarding passes and hotel or other travel confirmations before you discard them. The personal information on them could be used by thieves to steal your identity. If you aren’t able to safely discard of this information, lock it up with your other important documents, such as your passport, in the hotel safe.
If you are the unfortunate victim of identity theft or if 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 and keep it in a secure location. For additional BBB travel tips, visit bbb.org.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 113 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4.5 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visitwww.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.