August 9, 2016

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Road Trips and Identity Theft

If you’re like most people, turning the page on your calendar this month may have been a little hard. There’s nothing like seeing the word “August” to remind you that another summer will be whizzing to an end faster than you can blink. Along with that disappointment, though, comes a frequent panicked thought: “Oh no, I never even went on vacation!” It feels too late to book a complicated trip with flights…but a road trip? All you really have to do is jump in the car and go, right?

There’s nothing that screams “summer!” more than a great road trip. It’s just you, the open road, and the flexibility to go wherever you want. However, for all the fun and freedom road trips provide, they can also be a prime time for identity theft. It’s not uncommon to want to escape real life when you head out on vacation, but too many people also leave their common sense at home — and that’s what identity thieves count on.

Don’t let the threat of identity theft stop you from going out and enjoying your summer road trip. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself and avoid travel scams if you learn how to prevent identity theft from happening in the first place.

Road Trips: How to Prevent Identity Theft

Before you hit the road this summer, take some time to read and understand this list of precautions you can take. A little preparation tends to go a long way in warding off identity thieves.

  • Pretend like you’re home – Identity thieves love an empty house because it means they can go through your trash, mail, or even break into your home to steal sensitive documents. Keep them away by leaving a light on and a car in the driveway. Ask the post office to hold your mail while you’re away so it won’t pile up in your mailbox (that’s a dead giveaway for criminals). If you have any trusted friends or family nearby, ask them to check on your home every day or two.
  • Don’t broadcast your trip on social media – This can be the hardest for some people because it can be tempting to “check in” at different stops along the way, post pictures from your travels, and brag to everyone that you’re getting out of Dodge for a week. Try to avoid doing this because it simply screams “I’m not home! You can go break into my house!” And remember, even if you have strict privacy settings on your accounts, you never know if any of your connections have a history of stealing identities — especially if they’ve never been caught.
  • Seek out secure Wi-Fi connections – Wireless Internet is amazing in so many ways, but it also makes it incredibly easy for identity thieves to steal information. If you need to connect to a Wi-Fi network while on the road — whether at a hotel, café, library, or other public location — try to only choose networks that are password protected. Also, be sure to turn off the setting on your phone that allows it to automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks because you never know who is tapping in and waiting for you.
  • Use cash – We’re living in a digital world now, but constantly swiping your credit and debit cards as you travel down the highway can open you up to so many opportunities for identity theft. If possible, bring as much cash as you feel comfortable carrying, and try to use it instead of your cards. If you must use a card, opt for a credit card over a debit card, as it can be easier to reverse fraudulent charges.

The best way to avoid  identity theft and travel scams? Trust your gut. If someone, something, or somewhere doesn’t seem “right,” keep your personal information to yourself.

If you’re hitting the road this summer, or just like to travel in general, consider signing up for identity theft protection services with IdentityForce. We monitor your personal information 24/7, alert you immediately if it’s being misused, and give you the power to act before the damage is done. And, if someone does steal your identity, we’ll save you hundreds of hours by fully managing any identity restoration services. Learn more about our award-winning plans and pricing.

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