When you’re going on vacation, the last thing you want to do is worry about paperwork and account information. But the number of identity fraud victims in the U.S. was up 22% to 9.9 million in 2008, according to the 2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Just a few simple moves could protect you.
Before You Leave Home
Lock up your valuables and documents containing sensitive information.
Put your mail on hold at the post office. You could also have a trusted friend, family member or neighbor pick it up for you, but keep in mind that many incidents of identity theft involve an acquaintance of the victim.
Keep a copy of your passport at home or with someone you trust in case of an emergency and make sure someone knows where to contact you in case of an emergency.
Leave contact information. Just in case, if you won’t be reachable at your usual phone number, tell your creditors how you can be reached while you’re away.
On the Road
Bring emergency cash or traveler's checks and a photocopy of your passport. Don’t bring all of your credit cards or your social security card.
Keep a list of phone numbers you’d need to call if you lose your wallet. Include credit card account numbers and phone numbers for your creditors. If you’re traveling internationally, have the number for the American embassy handy in case you lose your passport.
Be aware of your surroundings. “Pickpockets are everywhere,” says Adam Levin, Chairman of Credit.com. Don’t keep your wallet, cash, cards or identification in your back pocket. Even your front coat pocket may not be safe enough. Try a travel pouch.
“Use the safe deposit box of the hotel, not the room safe,” says Levin. “A locked suitcase isn’t my idea of security,” he adds.
Credit cards are a good way to pay while you’re traveling since you have greater protections and problems may be resolved faster than if you used a debit card.
Be sure to call your credit card companies and let them know you’ll be traveling though. If they notice unusual spending, or spending in new locations, especially internationally, they may put a freeze on your account.
Use your debit card to get cash at a bank, but beware. Thieves have been known to install credit card skimmers on ATMs, devices which are able to read your card information. Also, look out for people behind you at ATMs who may be looking over your shoulder to watch you type in your password.
Encrypt your laptop. If you’re bringing a laptop on vacation, make sure it’s encrypted, not just password protected. And don’t leave your laptop unattended at any time. If you keep any important information on your cell phone or PDA, make sure it’s password protected.
Use a secure network. Make sure your hotel has some sort of security measure on its wireless or hardwired network.
If you can, check your credit card and bank accounts online to make sure no unfamiliar charges have been posted.
Credit card fraud was the most common type of identity theft in 2008, according to the Federal Trade Commission. So if you’re using a public computer to check on your accounts, clear the browser’s history when you’re finished using it.
Instead of carrying a piece of paper with important account numbers, telephone numbers, and other information, you may want to send yourself this information in a non-descript email, maybe even at the bottom of a text attachment containing random text, to keep just for the duration of your trip, Levin says.
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