Planning a fun trip this summer?
It's important to relax and have fun on vacation, but remember that criminals are everywhere, waiting to take advantage of your lack of attention. It's likely that the last thing on your mind when you're vacationing is becoming the victim of identity theft. However, vacation time is also when identity thieves are at their busiest.
With the peak travel season already in progress, here are twelve simple ways to battle and win against ID thieves:
Before you leave:
#1: Place a hold on your mail. An overflowing mailbox can attract thieves looking for an easy way to steal personal information.
#2: Don’t announce travel plans on social media. The information invites ID thieves to target your house while you’re away.
#3: Clean out your wallet. Do you really need eight credit cards and your library card on vacation? If you lose your wallet, it’s just more that you have to deal with.
#4: Leave your laptop at home. An increasing amount of identity theft begins with personal device hacking. If you must bring it, update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
#5: Freeze your credit with the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A credit freeze blocks access to credit reports that lenders use to grant credit, which should prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name. You can remove the freeze when you return. Rules vary by state, but in some states, credit bureaus can charge a processing fee of up to $10 for a security credit freeze. There’s no charge to remove it. (People 65 and older and victims of ID theft can obtain a credit freeze for free. Identity theft victims also can temporarily lift the freeze for a specific party or period of time at no charge.)
#6: Set up a travel alert on your credit card accounts. Call the 800 number to notify the card issuer where and when you’ll be traveling, especially if you’re going abroad. (If you don’t, the fraud department could mistakenly flag your account and deny your transactions.)
Once you are on vacation:
#7: Use the safe. While staying at a hotel, lock away important documents such as your passport.
#8: Limit your internet. Avoid accessing bank accounts while in a hotel room, coffee shop or other public Wi-Fi location.
#9: Protect your smartphone. Create a strong password for access in case it is lost or stolen. Use an application with a GPS locator to find it.
#10: Use ATMs located at banks. Unbranded machines may be less secure and the fees often are higher.
#11: Don’t put your full name and address on luggage tags. The idea is to limit personal information that could fall into the wrong hands. Your last name and phone number are enough information to contact you if your suitcase is lost.
#12: Tear up and discard used boarding passes. Such documents often contain personal information that identity thieves can use to steal your identity.
The risk of identity theft increases on vacation. Employ these twelve tips to be careful with your personal information, guard your electronic devices, and you will be able to have an enjoyable, crime-free summer trip!