Heading to the airport is already a stressful experience, but that's just what identity thieves are counting on-a distracted traveler is a ripe target. Passengers checking in, fumbling with bags, documents and one-quart baggies filled with toiletries aren't thinking about guarding their identities. But they should be.
Airports are hubs that transfer travelers from Point A to Point B, but they're increasingly hubs of identity theft, too. Being aware of thieves' tricks and tactics will help safeguard your identity and make sure that your trip doesn't turn into a nightmare.
• Watch out for Wi-Fi. Most travelers take at least one Wi-Fi-enabled gadget along for the ride, and many take a handful-smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Logging on to a public Wi-Fi network in an airport is a risky move. Many are unsecured, leaving your data visible to thieves and vulnerable to attack.
• Cut RFID risks. In newer passports (issued after 2006) and some credit cards, an embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) chip holds all your important information-exactly what identity thieves are after. Using a scanning device, thieves can access the information in the RFID chip without even getting their hands on your passport or cards. New RFID-stopping wallets and passport cases cut down on the risk.
• Beware Bluetooth. Many business travelers are "on" even when they're in an airport-working remotely and staying connected to the office. But leaving Bluetooth switched "on" can give thieves a clear path into your electronic devices. Use it when necessary, but otherwise, keep it off to block this path to identity theft.
• Protect personal information. Putting identifying information on baggage is important in case it gets delayed or lost. On the other hand, writing too much information down could give thieves the data they need to steal your identity. List a work address, cell or work phone number, or a specially created email address (other than a primary one).
Smart traveling today means so much more than knowing how to say "hello" in five languages and packing light. Stay aware of how identity thieves are exploiting airports and the journey will much more enjoyable.