Travel can be a wonderful adventure – but traveling has a dark side, too. Tourists are often targets for identity thieves who might use information from credit cards, IDs, and passports to wreak financial havoc. Even more challenging, victims might not realize they’ve been struck until they get back from the trip, potentially making the damage even worse. Limit your vulnerability with these simple ID protection tips that lessen your risk: Take only the cards and documents you really need: The average wallet or purse often contains a wealth of information that identity thieves can use, including bills, checks, and less-used credit cards. After you pack your bags, unpack your wallet so it has only what you need.
- Keep your wallet info in a separate location: Once you’ve pared down your wallet’s contents, make photocopies of the back and front of your credit cards, driver’s license, and health insurance cards, and keep that copy in a safe place. That way, if your wallet is stolen or lost, you’ll have all the info you need to prevent damage, even while you’re still traveling. Just be sure to keep the duplicate info safe! If it’s lost of stolen, you’ll need to go through the same cancellation process.
- Don’t leave any personal documents in your hotel room: Even throwing receipts into the trash can be a concern when it comes to traveling, since those slips of paper might have your name and credit card info.
- Surf safely: Travelers often use hotel Wi-Fi connections, or stop into an Internet cafe or coffee shop, to stay in touch with friends and work. Because these connections aren’t always secure, be very careful about accessing any bank information or other sites with sensitive information. Thieves may have installed “keylogger” software on public computers, capturing your keystrokes, including usernames and passwords. Some people create travel email addresses and forward their email to that account, then delete those accounts when they return.
- Lock down your phone: These days, smartphones can contain just as much personal information as your home computer. Make sure that a lost or stolen phone doesn’t become a huge security problem by setting a password on the phone, deleting banking and social media apps (you can reinstall when you’re home), and removing any sensitive information. For more information about using your phone and other devices safely, see “How can you prevent identity theft on mobile devices? Our top tips.”
- Be vigilant: The No. 1 tip for protecting your information is to be aware of your surroundings and your things. Make a habit of regularly checking for your wallet, passport, etc. Is your backpack zipped? Is someone standing unusually close to you? Always keep an eye out for potential ID thieves.
Once you’re home, and on a secure Internet connection again, check your credit card and banking activity to catch any fraudulent charges early. With these identity protection tactics, you can relax and enjoy your vacation. How do you guard your information when you travel? Share your ID protection tips in the comments. To learn more about identity theft protection, download Cobalt CU’s free e-book on identity theft prevention.