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Preventing Identity Theft While Traveling

posted 2013-04-19 13:57:00.393 tags Travel Tips Travel Blunders

You have arrived at your destination and are ready begin your business trip or start your holiday, but this doesn't mean you can leave all of your worries behind.  While identity theft is a crime that you can not entirely prevent, taking these basic precautions can help you minimize your chances of becoming a target.

What can I do to protect my identity before I depart for the next trip?
 
There are some simple steps you can take before you leave home to reduce your chances of having your financial identity compromised.
  • Pay bills before you leave: One of the worst things you can do while abroad is transfer money and information over public wifi. If a bill must be paid while you are away, talk to your bank about setting up an automatic transfer.
     
  • Put a hold on mail deliveries: Even if you have a trustworthy neighbor who can collect your mail it is best to have it held at the post office. If a thief is staking out your home he may notice the neighbor frequently coming to collect your mail.
     
  • Purchase identity theft protection services: If you travel often it is a good idea to purchase identity theft protection. If you do have the misfortune of falling victim while are paying for coverage these companies will work with you to resolve the situation.
     
  • Use strong passwords: Never use a password that is easy to guess, make sure all your passwords are at least eight characters and it is a good idea to include numbers, letters, and symbols when possible.
     
  • Don't broadcast on Facebook about your upcoming trip: It may feel good to brag about the big conference you get to attend or the exotic destination you are vacationing to, but letting the world know via social media is like posting a sign on your front door saying "Out of town". You can tell your friends all about it when you return.
     
  • Only take what you need: Don't pack the kitchen sink, ask youself "Do I really need this?" and be sure you clean out your wallet of an uncecessary items.
     
  • Keep important numbers separate: Create a list of important contact numbers in case your personal items go missing. Store this list in a location other than your wallet or purse.
     
  • Hide financial documents: Don't leave financial records or documents out on your home desk or where a thief can take them. Lock up personal information in an at home safe.
     
  • Advise credit card company: Let your credit card company and bank know you will be out of town, especially if you will be out of country. Credit card companies are becoming much more diligent about tracking unusual spending on your card.
What type of things can I do while abroad to protect myself against identity theft?
 
Once you have landed in destination it is still important you are mindful of your actions. Thieves expect that travelers let their guard down while abroad and will take advantage of that. Here are some tips to help you keep your identity in check.
  • Use public wifi cautiously: Free wifi can seem great, but be careful what you use it for. Keep in mind that whatever you do on the network may be getting viewed by others.
     
  • Watch out for shoulder surfing and pickpockets: Be aware of who is in close proximity when you punch in your pin and who can hear your conversations with hotel clerks. Pickpockets focus on busy tourist areas such as malls, amusement parks, public transportation and sporting events.
     
  • Use cash whenever possible or opt for credit rather than debit: watch your entire transaction being processed and know that no one should be writing down your credit card number.
     
  • Only use ATMs at secure locations: Fake ATM machines are more often placed in high traffic tourist areas and be especially weary when the ATM has an unbranded shell or too much dark glass in front.
     
  • Never leave personal belongings unattended, even for a moment: It only takes a moment for a thief to swipe your bag.
     
  • Use hotel safes: Lock up any personal items that you do not need and do not share the access code with anyone.
     
  • Guard your smartphone: Nowadays our phones are more than a simply device to make calls from, they are mini computers that house a lot of our personal information and in many cases are gateways to personal information as it is common practice to stay logged in to many frequently visited sites.
What do I do if I lose my wallet or think my identity has been compromised?
 
Sometimes you do everything possible to reduce your chances of identity theft, but you still fall victim, the first thing to do is act quickly. If you have purchased travel insurance you may have access to assistance so check your policy. Otherwise, contact your credit card company to cancel the card(s), advise your bank of the situation and notify credit reporting agencies immediately. To learn more about reporting identity theft, contact the U.S. Department of Justice Identity Theft Force (ITTF) at:
 
By Telephone: Toll-free at 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338) 
or TDD at 1-866-653-4261
By Mail: Consumer Response Center, 
FTC, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., 
Washington, DC 20580
 
Here is a checklist of the items you need to address. For more information on identity theft visit www.stopfraud.gov/protect-identity.html.




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