May 21, 2015

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Identity Theft Prevention While You’re On Vacation

With Memorial Day right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to a long weekend and summer trips that are soon to follow. Unfortunately, identity thieves are just as excited for the vacation time ahead because it brings more opportunities to steal information.

Criminals exploit common occurrences like lost debit cards, use of unfamiliar ATMs and an abundance of unsecured personal items in hotel rooms or rental properties. Sophisticated scammers and thieves watch for vacationers, who use their credit and debit cards more often, and take longer to notice any fraudulent activity.

Follow these vacation safety tips to ensure you’re getting adequate identity theft prevention, no matter where you travel.

  • When booking a vacation rental, only use legitimate vacation rental sites and do some research before sending funds online directly to a property owner. Remember that it’s never wise to send money by linking your bank account to the recipient. Instead, consider using a reputable go-between.
  • Password-protect your smartphone and other devices that you bring on trips, especially if you have financial apps or other sensitive information stored on them. Even with a fingerprint reader enabled, you should still use a strong passcode of four digits or more to prevent access to your phone should it be stolen.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi, even to check your email. These connections can be insecure, thus thwarting your efforts at identity theft prevention. Criminals could get into your system covertly and then install a keylogger program that sends all your activity back to them.
  • Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card. According to Consumer Reports, credit cards often offer better fraud protection, and federal regulations limit your liability. Card issuers usually waive even those small liability amounts. But debit cards are more complex in terms of usage and regulations, and you could potentially lose all the money in your account.
  • Post and tweet wisely. Even if your Facebook account is set to the highest privacy levels possible (and it should be), there are still ways for criminals to see some of your posts. Letting them know you’re thousands of miles away from home is never a good idea, since they could take the opportunity to break into your house, steal whatever mail is piling up or open credit accounts while you’re gone.
  • Make copies of your travel documents. That way, if you lose your passport, driver’s license or credit cards (copy the back as well as the front), you can act quickly to put identity theft prevention tactics into place.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements carefully after you return. Sometimes, travelers don’t even know they’ve been hit until the card they used on vacation suddenly has hundreds of dollars in additional charges. If you have secure Wi-Fi while traveling, it’s also a good practice to check your accounts online every day, so you can report any inconsistencies quickly.

Long weekends and summer vacations are some of the great joys of life. Just be sure your downtime includes the right amount of identity theft prevention.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jeff Shewan.

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Heidi Daitch

Director, Strategic Programs at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.
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