If your holiday plans include travel to visit friends, family, or some attraction, it pays to be vigilant against identity theft. Although you can feel overwhelmed with trying to protect your home while you’re away as well as your identity and your possessions during your travels, ID theft protection is pretty basic, common sense actions that anyone can take. Take a moment and check out these tips for avoiding ID theft while on the road.
Who ARE these identity thieves?
In a study published in 2007, a Federal Trade Commission study revealed that
- 84 percent of thieves didn’t know their victims
- 8 percent were friends, neighbors, or in-home employees
- 6 percent were family members or relatives
- 2 percent were co-workers
The vast majority of the time, the thief and the victim didn’t know each other. In the other 16 percent of identity theft cases, the thieves knew their victims. That kind of ID theft is a little harder to protect against unless you’re willing (like me) to invest in a credit monitoring service like Equifax Credit Watch.
Protect your identity while traveling
Here are some great tips for protecting your identity while you’re away from home:
Protect your identity by stopping your mail.
The post office will gladly hold your mail while you’re out of town. Your Social Security numbers, mortgage information, paycheck stubs, and all sorts of other information is probably stashed in file cabinets, drawers, and other not-so-secret places in your home. If a thief is able to get into your home, he or she can spend all day gathering YOUR information.
Protect your identity by stopping the newspaper.
No sense telling thieves that you’re not home by allowing newspapers to pile up (does anyone still get the newspaper?).
Protect your identity and cool it with Facebook.
NEVER post your status on any social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc) as “Traveling on vacation to the beach!” or “Out of town visiting family through New Years!” That’s just an open invitation to thieves that your possessions, including your identity, are vulnerable.Tell your friends personally, if you want them to know, but keep this information away from potential thieves.
Protect your identity by having backup identification.
When you’re packing up to hit the road, don’t take all forms of ID with you. It’s smart to leave some at home in a secure place — a safe if you have one or a safety deposit box at your bank or credit union. That way if your wallet is stolen or your bags are lost, you still have important forms of ID at home.
Protect your identity by NOT leaving it out in the open!
Never leave anything with personal information (wallet, passport, laptop) in your hotel room when you travel. Use the hotel safe instead.
Protect your identity by knowing that online thieves are waiting.
If you need to get online while traveling, be aware that Internet cafes are often targets for identity thieves. Hotel business centers are usually more secure, but it’s safer to avoid doing any online banking from these public connections.
Protect your identity by using credit on the road.
Finally, try to use your credit cards instead of checks or debit cards while traveling. In the event that someone makes fraudulent charges in your name, it’s much easier in most cases to recoup your losses with a credit card than your checking account. You may also want to notify your credit card company to let them know you’re traveling so they know where they should — and shouldn’t — expect to see charges.
Protect your identity by watching your credit cards at all times.
Giving your credit card to a waiter or another cashier can result in fraudulent charges. I worked at a mall sit-down restaurant where a waiter would take a credit card, run (literally) to a clothing store, charge several items, and then return, apologizing for “taking so long” and making up an excuse about helping out in the kitchen. He got away with it for a few months, but eventually it caught up with him and he served some time in prison.
Protecting your identity on the road is just common sense
Having gone through the nightmare of identity theft, I’m a little more cautious than the average person and I always, ALWAYS maintain a credit monitoring service. I subscribe to the old saying “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” I won’t be a victim again and with the help of Equifax, my identity has been protected now for 4 years.