This post is by Bernie Carr,
One of my relatives had their debit information stolen while on vacation. They traced it back to a restaurant where they last used the card while on vacation. It took them a while to clear it up. Identity theft is a year-round risk but with increased travel during the summer, there is more exposure to the threat.
People also tend to lower their guard while on vacation and may not pay the usual attention to possible pitfalls. Here are tips to avoid having your identity stolen and spoiling your vacation.
Hold your mail
Before your leave, make arrangements to have someone clear your mailbox and hold your mail, or have the Post Office place a vacation hold on your mail delivery. Having your mailbox pile up is a sure sign you’re out of town. Thieves can steal your mail and steal your personal information.
Make copies of important documents
Make a couple of photo copies of documents such as your driver’s license, passport, credit and debit cards. Leave a set with a trusted friend or family member, and keep and extra set with you. If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen, you can have backup copies to make reporting the loss and ordering replacements easier.
Secure your smart phone
Set up a password to access your smart phone. This adds an extra layer of protection of you phone gets lost or stolen. Consider phone finding apps such as “Find My Phone” to help you locate your phone via their website as well as lock the screen if it is out of your possession.
Use credit instead of debit
Use credit cards instead of debit cards when traveling, especially when paying at the pump in a gas station. There are a lot of reports of gas stations having card skimmers that steal your information as soon as you use them.
Also use cash or credit cards instead of debit cards while paying at restaurants, flea markets etc. The reason is credit cards often have a $50 limit in your out of pocket liability in the event of theft, while debit cards vary. Your bank account may very well get cleaned out or frozen in the event of theft.
If you use cash: I personally prefer to use cash but that also carries risk if you were to lose your wallet while traveling. You also need to be mindful of who can see you pulling out bills from your wallet as they may follow you and try to rob you later. Have your money ready when paying so you don’t attract attention.
Notify your bank
Before heading out on a trip, place a travel notice with your bank. I know this sounds like an intrusion. However, it also protects you. If the bank’s fraud alert system detects usage that is not in the norm, the card will be declined. Notifying them in advance avoids you having your card being declined while paying at the cashier; at the same time if someone tries to use your card, the card will be refused as well.
Avoid using public computers and Wifi
Public computers at the hotel should not be used to access personal information. You don’t know what type of malware could be lurking. Using public Wifi exposes your private information, as your connection is unsecured. Never access your private accounts using public Wifi.
Avoid stand-alone cash machines
Use ATM machines at banks instead of stand alone cash machines in gas stations or stores. Stand alone cash machines are often targeted by thieves. They install skimmers, mirrors and other devices that steal your password when you use them.
Limit personal documents
If there is no need to take your social security card, leave it at home. Take only a small number of credit cards.
Don’t announce travel plans via social media
You’ll be announcing that your home will be vacant, and you’ll also be vulnerable while traveling. Wait until you return before sharing your adventures.
Check your statements
Review your bank statements after your vacation. If you notice any suspicious charges, contact your bank immediately.
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