The lazy days of summer are upon us, filled with lemonade, backyard barbeques, travel – and identity theft. Unfortunately, identity thieves don’t take vacations, so don’t let your guard down on your getaway. Simple strategies before, during, and after your trip may save your sanity, your credit rating, and your money.
Before you go:
Put a hold on your mail – Mail thieves are looking for documents containing sensitive information that could be used to steal your identity, and they certainly won’t turn down cash-filled birthday cards. Place a hold with the post office to keep the mail from piling up.
Avoid posting travel plans on social media – Don’t tip off would-be burglars to an empty house. Likewise, it makes sense to wait to post your fun-filled pictures until your return.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi – The connections are not secure, and thieves may access your personal information on free coffee shop and airport Wi-Fi connections. Disabling your Wi-Fi will prevent automatically connecting to unknown networks, and you can enable later when connecting to a trusted network. Consider using a VPN for a secure connection.
Use the hotel safe whenever possible – Leaving valuables visible in hotel rooms or vehicles is like laying out a welcome mat for burglars. Store cash, tickets, backup credit cards and other valuables in the safe or out of sight.
Carry only necessary credit cards and cash – Leave your Medicare and Social Security cards back at home, along with unneeded credit cards. It’s also a great idea to keep an extra credit card (in the safe, of course!) separate from the others, in case your wallet is lost or stolen during your vacation.
Pay with a credit card rather than a debit card – Credit cards offer better fraud protection and limit liability. If your debit card is compromised, you could potentially lose all the money in your account.
Stay alert –As always, pay attention! Thieves are counting on visitors being distracted with new sights and unfamiliar surroundings.
After you return:
Read bills and statements – Review all items and report unfamiliar charges immediately. You should also check bank accounts and statements.
Check credit report – Identity thieves may take out credit cards, consumer loans, open utility accounts, or seek medical care in your name, leaving a trail of unpaid bills. Consider a Credit Freeze (FTC consumer information here).
Use a shredder for statements, old credit cards, and anything with personal information.
Do not click on unknown links, which may be malware or phishing scams to gather your data.
Shop only on secure websites.
Do not give personal info to someone who calls or emails you. Ask for a callback phone number and verify the number does, in fact, belong to that company or individual. Call the number to continue the conversation. Helpful tip: the IRS does not make phone calls.
Smart planning will go a long way in preventing a dream vacation from turning into a nightmare. Bon voyage! Buon viaggio! Buen viaje!