Before you turn out the lights, lock the door, and depart for your summer vacation, be sure to take some basic steps to safeguard your identity.
While you’re relaxing with friends and family, you can bet that identity thieves will be hard at work.
Travelers are vulnerable because they’re eating out, shopping and staying in hotels. Those are precisely the locations where hackers go to steal valuable consumer data by exploiting payment system vulnerabilities. According to Trustwave Global Security, about 85 percent of data breaches in 2011 targeted the food and beverage, retail and hospitality industries.
“Remember that your hotel is not your castle,” said Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911. “Many people you don’t know have access to your room.”
Follow this helpful advice from our experts:
Before you leave
1. Tell your banks and credit card companies about your travel plans. Avoid the hassle of a frozen account. Instruct them to contact your cell phone number if they notice suspicious activity.
2. Secure your mail. Hold your mail with the
or have a friend pick it up daily.
3. Weed out your wallet. Outsmart pickpockets and leave behind your checkbook, Social Security card and other nonessentials.
4. Make digital copies of important travel documents. This allows for easier replacement if they are stolen or missing.
While you’re away
5. Choose ATMs wisely. Withdraw cash only at major institutions after inspecting them for tampering. Use a PIN-based ATM card instead of a debit card.
6. Use secure Internet connections. Don’t access personal or financial information on public computers.
7. Use a hotel safe. Never leave out personal information, a laptop or a smartphone in your hotel room or rental car.
8. Avoid oversharing. Never post specific vacation plans or pictures on social networking sites. It’s an open invitation to potential thieves.
When you return
9. Check accounts regularly. Frequently check credit and bank account activity on a secure computer or by phone while you’re away and when you return.
10. Shred boarding passes, itineraries and other paperwork that contains valuable information. Never throw these documents away.
Finally, if you think you may be a victim of identity theft, call your bank, credit union, insurer or financial planner to see if they offer identity theft management services. Some financial institutions offer this service for free as a perk for being a member or account holder.
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