Vacations are meant to be a time for you to relax and to enjoy yourself. It's likely that the last thing on your mind when you're vacationing is becoming the victim of theft. However, vacation time is also when identity thieves are at their busiest.
With the peak travel season already in progress, here are several ways you can battle ID thieves while on the road:
■Place a hold on your mail. An overflowing mailbox can attract thieves looking for an easy way to steal personal information.
■Don’t announce travel plans on social media. The information invites ID thieves to target your house while you’re away.
■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.
■Leave your laptop at home. If you must bring it, update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. And don’t access bank accounts while in a hotel room, coffee shop or other public Wi-Fi location.
■Freeze your credit with the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A 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 freeze. There’s no charge to remove it. (People 65 and older and victims of ID theft can obtain a freeze for free. ID theft victims also can temporarily lift the freeze for a specific party or period of time at no charge.)
■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.)
■While staying at a hotel, lock important documents such as your passport in a safe.
■Protect your smartphone. Create a password for access in case it is lost or stolen. Use an application with a GPS locator to find it.
■Use ATMs located at banks. Unbranded machines may be less secure and the fees often are higher.
■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.
■Tear up and discard used boarding passes, which often contain personal information.
To learn more about identity theft and what to do if you become a victim, visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.